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.
In Azad Jammu and Kashmir , 37,500 security personnel will be deployed at all polling stations to ensure free, fair & transparent elections for the Legislative Assembly#AJKElection2021 @Masood__Khan https://t.co/B08bAiVPrP pic.twitter.com/dayGvw0xfX
— Radio Pakistan (@RadioPakistan) July 21, 2021
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
— Al-Monitor (@AlMonitor) July 20, 2021
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
Landslide victory for Opposition groups in #Lebanon’s Order of Engineers and Architects Elections.
Aref Yassine, Opposition candidate for head of the order, won with 67% of the vote, leaving most traditional parties with a combined total of 33%.
— Nader Durgham | نادر درغام (@NaderDurgham) July 18, 2021
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.
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
Bahrain Parliamentary Elections: November 2022 (due)
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
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