August 3, 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 town of Sidi Bou Said in Tunisia. Tunisia is in the midst of political turmoil following the president’s dismissal of the government, a move critics have called a coup. Photo credit: Wikimedia/Rene Cortin (CC BY-SA 4.0)
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.
Nancy Ezzededine and Erwin Van Veen, War on the Rocks (August 4, 2021): Warning signs: Qassem Musleh and Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces
Farhad Alaaldin, Rudaw (August 2, 2021): Sadr’s withdrawal disturbs power balance, weakens elections
Agenzia Fides (July 30, 2021): Political party of Christians announces the boycott of the next parliamentary elections
The National UAE (July 29, 2021): US envoy to Iraq: early elections possible despite attempts to discredit them
— Rudaw English (@RudawEnglish) July 30, 2021
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
Egypt Today (August 2, 2021): Voter registration for Libya’s upcoming elections extended for 2 weeks
UN News (July 30, 2021): Mercenaries ‘impede’ peace, must leave Libya to allow elections
Robert F. Worth and Jehad Nga, New York Times (July 30, 2021 – with photo essay): Qaddafi’s Son Is Alive. And He Wants to Take Libya Back.
Qatar Shura Council Elections: October 2021 (announced – date not set)
Qatar has announced that it will hold its first-ever parliamentary elections in October 2021. More
Reuters (July 30, 2021): Qatar’s emir approves electoral law for first legislative polls
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.
Darin LaHood, Darrell Issa, and Charlie Crist, The Hill (August 4, 2021): US must support Lebanon as it faces economic and political instability
Ben Hubbard and Bryan Denton, New York Times (August 4, 2021 – photo essay): Collapse: Inside Lebanon’s Worst Economic Meltdown in More Than a Century
Anchal Vohra. Foreign Policy (August 4, 2021): Lebanon’s Billionaire Prime Minister Can Only Buy Time: A year after Beirut’s devastating port blast, the country’s political class is desperately trying to avoid a political reckoning.
Elise Ann Allen, Crux (August 4, 2021): One year after Beirut blast, vast political overhaul is needed, priest says
Mohamad Bazzi, CNN (August 3, 2021): A year after massive explosion in Beirut, Lebanon’s crisis deepens
Leela Jacinto, France24 (August 2, 2021): Beirut blast propels activist from street protests to political action
Bahrain Parliamentary Elections: November 2022 (due)
Bahrain is due to hold parliamentary elections in November 2022. Since a 2011 uprising, Bahrain has become increasingly authoritarian and repressive, especially vis a vis the Shi’ite opposition (Bahrain is more than half Shi’hite but ruled by a Sunni royal family). The opposition was barred from participating in the last elections in 2018. Moreover, the monarch has executive power as well as the power to appoint the prime minister and cabinet. Therefore, parliament is generally not very powerful.
Al Jazeera (July 30, 2021): Rights groups call on Bahrain to release prominent hunger striker
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.
Carlotta Gall, New York Times (August 4, 2021): Turks Wage War on Social Media as Raging Fires Turn Political: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has come under a concerted attack by his opponents over his handling of the worst forest fires in decades.
Onur Ant, Bloomberg (July 31, 2021): Turkey’s Government, Pro-Kurdish Party Spar Over Murdered Family
Aykan Erdemir and Sude Akgundogdu, The National Interest (July 30, 2021): Erdogan Escalates Turkish Campaign to Disenfranchise Six Million Pro-Kurdish Voters
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. More
James Rothwell, The Telegraph (August 1, 2021): Palestinian Authority intensifies crackdown on protesters over death of activist in custody: Why the cancellations of elections and the death of a prominent activist are fuelling tensions in West Bank
Nidal al-Mughrabi, Reuters (August 1, 2021): Haniyeh Re-Elected as Chief of Palestinian Islamist Group Hamas
Daniel Rice, Foreign Brief (July 31, 2021): Palestinian Presidential election indefinitely postponed
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, held 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 and generally complicates the geopolitics of the region.
Times of India (August 4, 2021): Explained: What Pakistan’s Gilgit-Baltistan plan means for India, China
Radio Mashaal, RFE/RL (August 4, 2021): Pakistani Opposition Decries Alleged Former Militant’s Spot On Ruling Party List
Dunya News (July 29, 2021): PML-N announces countrywide protest after alleging rigging in AJK polls
Umair Jamal, The Diplomat (July 29, 2021): Elections in Pakistan’s Kashmir Highlight Domination by Mainland Parties
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.
Raisi’s win complicates things for the Biden administration, which is seeking to restore the nuclear deal that the Trump administration left. More
Bonnie Kristian, The Week (August 3, 2021): Biden’s Iran miscalculation
Tunisia Presidential and Legislative Elections: September/October 2019
Tunisia began transitioning to democracy in 2011, amid the Arab Spring protests, and in 2019, held the third national elections since the fall of dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Political outsider and populist Kais Saied won the presidency. The results indicated a rejection of the main political parties and post-Ben Ali political ideologies (Islamism and secular liberalism). However, some concerns lingered about the democratic process.
In July 2021, Saied dismissed the government, a move that some deemed a coup.
Stratfor (August 4, 2021): Tunisia Braces for a Prolonged Political Crisis
Shadi Hamid, Brookings Institution (August 3, 2021): Tunisia, democracy, and the return of American hypocrisy
Magdi Abdelhadi, BBC (August 3, 2021): Tunisia crisis: Democrats, despots and the fight for power
Elizia Volkmann, Al Jazeera (August 3, 2021): ‘Defining moment’: What’s next for Tunisia’s Ennahdha? Tunisia’s largest parliamentary party faces an existential threat after President Saied assumed executive powers
Heba Saleh, Financial Times (August 2, 2021): Weary Tunisians welcome president’s power grab; A decade on from a democratic revolution, many see the return of one-man rule as an antidote to corruption
Simon Speakman Cordall, Time (July 30, 2021): Tunisia’s President Staged What Looks Like a Coup. But Democracy Isn’t Dead There Yet
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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