Middle East

July 20, 2021

A weekly review of news and analysis of elections in the greater Middle East and North Africa, usually posted on Tuesdays and occasionally updated throughout the week. For a full electoral calendar and interactive map, click here.

The village of Kel in Azad Jammu and Kashmir, the Pakistan-administered part of Kashmir, which holds elections for its regional assembly on July 25. Photo credit: Wikimedia/Durray Sameen Rajouri (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Upcoming Middle East Elections

Pakistan, Azad Jammu and Kashmir Elections: July 25, 2021

Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), part of the Pakistan-administered portion of the disputed region of Kashmir, will hold elections on July 25, 2021. These follow elections in Gilgit-Baltistan, the other part of Pakistan-administered Kashmir. The elections were originally due by April 2, 2021, but have been delayed.

The region is a geopolitical hotspot. Tensions with India (India and Pakistan have fought three wars, including two over Kashmir) are growing and both sides are upping their military presence. Moreover, the area is a centerpiece of China’s Belt and Road, which further inflames Pakistan’s relations with India.

Hamid Mir, Washington Post (July 20, 2021): Opinion: There are many things Pakistan can learn from China. One-party rule isn’t one of them.

Express Tribune Pakistan (July 18, 2021): Polling for first phase of AJK elections underway

Jordan Local Elections: By September 2021 (due)

Jordan is due to hold local elections by September 2021. These follow parliamentary elections, which happened on November 10, 2020. Turnout was low, and both women and Islamist candidates saw poor results. Subsequently, King Abdullah II announced a new high-level committee to enact political reforms. This is not the first such effort in Jordan, and past attempts at change have been a disappointment to those who hope for reform, but it could be promising. More

Aamer Hadhani, AP (July 19, 2021): Biden calls Jordan king a loyal ally in ‘tough neighborhood’

The Economist (July 15, 2021): Jordan’s jailing of a courtier exposes fissures in the kingdom: Some Bedouin tribes may be changing allegiance

Suleiman Al-Khalidi, Reuters (July 15, 2021): Jordan’s king reasserts rule after crisis but economic strains linger

Hayder Al-Shakarchi, Al Bawaba (July 15, 2021): Barbara Slavin on Jordan’s Growing Geostrategic Importance

Iraq Early Parliamentary Elections: October 10, 2021 (tentative) and Provincial Elections (due)

Iraq plans to hold early elections on October 10, postponed from the original proposal of holding them on June 6, 2021, one year early, following the demands of protesters. The country is also due to hold provincial (sometimes called governorate) elections. Preparations are taking place in the context of widespread protest and political instability. More

Renad Mansour, Washington Post (July 20, 2021): Iraqis protest deadly hospital fires as symptom of embedded corruption: Demands for a stable electricity supply also raise the stakes in this fall’s election

The New Arab (July 20, 2021): Iraq general election could be postponed if Sadr continues boycott

Edward Yeranian, Voice of America (July 20, 2021): Iraqi PM Fires Security Officials Over IS-Claimed Bombing

La Croix International (July 19, 2021): October elections may be fraudulent, warns Iraqi cardinal

Ali Sura, Rudaw (July 16, 2021): Christians will not participate in Iraqi elections: Cardinal Sako

Ahmed Rasheed, Reuters (July 15, 2021): Iraqi cleric Sadr says he won’t take part in October election

Mustafa Saadoun, Atlantic Council (July 14, 2021): Iraqis campaign against impunity for violence

Libya Parliamentary and Presidential Elections: December 24, 2021 (tentative)

Libya’s national elections are overdue and have been postponed indefinitely due to the political crisis and civil war. However, in November 2020, Libyan stakeholders participating in UN-sponsored talks proposed December 24, 2021 for presidential and parliamentary elections. More

Tim Molyneux, openDemocracy (July 19, 2021): Why we need better stories about Libya: International media has failed to explain the complexities of the conflict, or reflect the resilience of ordinary Libyans

Margaret Besheer, Voice of America (July 15, 2021): UN Urges Libya to Hold Elections on Time

Edith M. Lederer, AP (July 15, 2021): UN envoy: `Spoilers’ are trying to obstruct Libyan elections

Lebanon Parliamentary Elections: May 2022 (due)

Lebanon is due to hold general elections in May 2022, although some parties have called for early elections. The country has been in a political crisis and without a government since the port explosion in Beirut, in which 215 people died, 7,500 were injured, and 300,000 were left homeless. Moreover, Lebanon is in an economic crisis.

Chloe Cornish, Financial Times (July 20, 2021): Hariri’s stepping aside sets stage for more chaos in Lebanon: Political parties focus on next year’s elections as senior officials at home and abroad acknowledge depth of crisis

Reuters (July 16, 2021): As France urges Lebanon to pick PM, country faces even tougher times

Anchal Vohra, Foreign Policy (July 16, 2021): No Prime Minister—and No More Hope—for Lebanon

Afghanistan Parliamentary Elections: October 2023 and Presidential Election: September 2024 (due – early elections possible)

Afghanistan is due to hold its next presidential election in September 2024, but an early election is possible. Elections tend to be marred by violence, administrative problems, and lengthy delays. The current president, Ashraf Ghani, ultimately won re-election in a very tense vote and a tense four months in between the election and the final declaration of results. The election took place amid attacks by the Taliban, which had ordered Afghans not to vote.

Afghan politics are taking place in the context of the United States’ decision to withdraw from Afghanistan.

Robert D. Crews and Wazhmah Osman, Washington Post (July 20, 2021): The Taliban wants to rule Afghanistan again. But the country has changed

Kara Fox and Nic Robertson, CNN (July 20, 2021): Rockets land near Afghanistan’s presidential palace during Eid prayers

Palestinian Authority Presidential and Legislative Elections: Long overdue, postponed indefinitely

The Palestinian Authority has postponed its long overdue elections for the legislature and president, which had been scheduled for May 22 and July 31, respectively. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is currently in year 16 of a four-year term. Similarly, the last Legislative Council elections took place in 2006. 

Since the announcement of the delay, the conflict between Hamas and Israel reignited. Following 11 days of fighting, the parties reached a ceasefire on May 20. More

Adnan Abu Amer, Carnegie Endowment (July 20, 2021): Hamas’ Inability to Capitalize on the War in Gaza: Internal Palestinian political disputes have resumed following the eleven-day Gaza war.

Al Jazeera (July 18, 2021): Palestinian Authority covering up critic’s death, family says: Relatives of Nizar Banat, who died in PA custody, say they have not received the document with the official cause of death.

Turkey General Elections: By June 25, 2023 (snap elections possible)

Although Turkey is not due for general elections until 2023, there have been rumors of possible snap elections, and more than half of Turkish citizens want an early vote. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) has been in power since 2003, and although the party initially ran on a reformist platform, it has become increasingly authoritarian. A 2017 constitutional change, with passed very narrowly in a referendum, replaced the parliamentary system with a presidential system, and gave the presidency new powers. Freedom House subsequently downgraded Turkey from Partly Free to Not Free in 2018.

More recently, AKP sought to annul the 2019 Istanbul mayoral election after Ekrem İmamoğlu from the main opposition Republican Party (CHP) won (İmamoğlu ultimately won the re-vote and was sworn in as mayor).

Sebnem Arsu und Maximilian Popp, Spiegel International (July 20, 2021): Interview with Former Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu: “Parts of the Government Are Mafia-Like”

Pinar Tremblay, Al-Monitor (July 20, 2021): Erdogan’s game plan for next election involves Kurdish vote

Past Middle East Elections

Iran Presidential and Local Elections: June 18, 2021

Iran held its next presidential election on June 18, 2021, with concurrent local elections. While Iran is far from a free country, and the elections are largely rigged, voters have in the past had a degree of choice. However, this year’s election was even more rigged than usual. The Guardian Council (which must approve all candidacies) allowed seven candidates on the ballot and mostly excluded moderates and establishment figures, among them a number of prominent names. This seemed to be calculated to clear the way for hardline judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi to win, and he did in fact win. More

Reuters (July 20, 2021): Water crisis protests continue in Iran, with chants in capital

Candice Jebreel, Jerusalem Post (July 20, 2021): Explainer: Who is Iranian President-Elect Ebrahim Raisi?

Benoit Faucon and Ian Talley, Wall Street Journal (July 18, 2021): U.S. Weighs New Sanctions on Iran’s Oil Sales to China if Nuclear Talks Fail

Bijan Ahmadi, Younes Zangiabadi, and Arta Moeini, The National Interest (July 15, 2021): The West Must Expect Strategic Continuity from Ebrahim Raisi’s Iran

Algeria Snap Legislative Elections: June 12, 2021, followed by local elections later this year

Algeria held snap elections on June 12, 2021, following more than two years of protests by the Hirak movement. However, the government’s election plan did not actually satisfied the Hirak, who boycotted the elections and continue to protest. The absence of the Hirak, who are mostly secular, from the elections has paved the way for Islamist parties to become the main opposition. Ultimately, the FLN, the country’s long-dominant nationalist secular party, won the elections.

Rania Hamdi, The Africa Report (July 19, 2021): Algeria’s Islamist parties are joining the opposition

Malia Bouattia, The New Arab (July 16, 2021): Weary protesters see straight through Tebboune’s ‘new Algeria’

Reuters (July 14, 2021): Algeria leader pardons protest movement members

Syria Presidential Election: May 26, 2021

Syria held its presidential election for May 26, 2021. The election happened the context of Syria’s ongoing civil war and humanitarian crisis. Elections under the regime of Bashar al-Assad are widely considered to be a sham. More

The Economist (July 19, 2021): Pop a pill, save a dictator: Syria has become a narco-state

AFP (July 17, 2021): Syria’s Assad starts new term after re-election dismissed by international community

Middle East Elections Coming Up in 2021 and 2022

Pakistan, Azad Jammu and Kashmir Elections: July 25, 2021

Jordan Local and Gubernatorial Elections: August 2021 (due)

Morocco Legislative, Provincial, and Local Elections: September 8, 2021

Iraq Parliamentary Elections: October 10, 2021

Qatar Shura Council Elections: October 2021 (proposed)

Libya Presidential and Parliamentary Elections: December 24, 2021

Lebanon Parliamentary Elections: May 2022 (due)

Bahrain Parliamentary Elections: November 2022 (due)

Algeria Local Elections: November 2022 (due – earlier elections possible)

Egypt Local Elections: Due and discussed, but not scheduled

Oman Municipal Elections: Due, but postponed due to COVID-19

Palestinian Authority Presidential and Legislative Elections: Long overdue, postponed yet again, no date set

21votes does not necessarily agree with all of the opinions expressed in the linked articles; rather, our goal is to curate a wide range of voices. Furthermore, none of the individuals or organizations referenced have reviewed 21votes’ content, and their inclusion should not be taken to imply that they endorse us in any way. More on our approach here.

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