Middle East This Week: September 7, 2021

September 7, 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.

Rabat, Morocco. Photo credit: Flickr/Klim Levene (CC BY 2.0)

Upcoming Middle East Elections

Morocco Legislative and Local Elections: September 8, 2021

Morocco has set legislative, provincial, and local elections for September 8, 2021. The elections are taking place in the context of discontentment and disillusionment. Although the current monarch, King Mohammed VI, has instituted a number of political reforms, he still plays a major role in governing, both through formal structures and informally. Following the 2011 constitutional reforms, the king must appoint a prime minister from the party that wins the most seats in parliament, but the king can still circumvent elected officials in various ways (including dissolving parliament or simply issuing decrees).

In the last elections, in 2016, the moderate Islamic democratic Party of Justice and Development (PJD) won the most seats. However, the king sought to sideline PJD as much as possible with ministerial appointments. More

Tarik El Barakah, AP (September 7, 2021): Parties campaign ahead of Morocco’s pivotal elections

AFP (September 6, 2021): Islamists’ grip on power at stake in lacklustre Morocco election

Ahmed Eljechtimi and Angus Mcdowall, Reuters (September 4, 2021): Looming Moroccan election reveals parliament’s dimming sway

Qatar Shura Council Elections: October 2, 2021

Qatar has announced that it will hold its first-ever parliamentary elections (Shura Council elections) on October 2, 2021. Qatar is an absolute monarchy in which the emir holds all political power. The only elections that the country has ever held have been for the Central Municipal Council, an advisory body with no real power. Political parties are not allowed. Moreover, the vast majority of people who live in Qatar are not citizens, and have no political rights. The Shura Council has existed since 1972, but has few real powers. 

Some have criticized these elections as a cosmetic reform undertaken because of increased pressure because Qatar will be hosting the football World Cup in 2022More

Ben Hubbard, New York Times (September 2, 2021): From Afghanistan to the World Cup, Tiny, Wealthy Qatar Steps Up

Benjamin Weinthal and Jonathan Spyer, Jerusalem Post (August 31, 2021): Qatar under fire for election crackdown on dissident tribe

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) as a result of the pro-democracy protests that began in 2019. 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.

The current political climate is violent and chaotic, with over 600 people killed since the start of the protests. Moreover, a number of political parties have announced plans to boycott the polls. The Shi’ite firebrand cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, one of Iraq’s most influential politicians, had announced a boycott, but has since reversed course and urged his followers to support the elections. More

Samya Kullab, AP (September 7, 2021): UN envoy to Iraq says effort underway to prevent voter fraud

AFP (September 7, 2021): EU, UN hope for ‘credible’ Iraq polls

Ghassan Adnan, Wall Street Journal (September 5, 2021): Islamic State Kills at Least 12 Police in Iraq Amid Resurgence Fears: Attack on a police outpost in Kirkuk province was followed by two other assaults

Mustafa Saadoun, Al-Monitor (September 1, 2021): International observers prepare for Iraq’s elections

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

Al Jazeera (September 7, 2021): Libya releases political prisoners as part of reconciliation

AFP (September 6, 2021): Libyan dictator’s son Saadi Qaddafi freed from jail

Ahmed Elumami, Reuters (September 3, 2021): Worst Tripoli fighting in a year shows limits of Libya peace push

Al-Monitor (September 1, 2021): Libya’s FM signals elections could be delayed: Foreign Minister Najla al-Mangoush said the Dec. 24 elections could be postponed if lawmakers fail to agree on the electoral law.

AP (August 31, 2021): Libya’s Neighbors Meet, Urge Foreign Fighters to Leave

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.

Kareem Chehayeb and Tala Majzoub, Arab Reform Initiative (September 7, 2021): Lebanon’s Student Movement: A New Political Player?

Najia Houssari, Arab News (September 7, 2021`): Lebanon faces ‘more chaos’ with no government

Lina Mounzer, New York Times (September 3, 2021): Lebanon as We Once Knew It Is Gone

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

Adam Rasgon, New York Times (September 6, 2021): Palestinian Authority Indicts 14 Security Force Members in Activist’s Death

Al-Monitor (September 2, 2021): Palestinian president in Cairo for talks with Egyptian, Jordanian leaders

Khaled Abu Toameh, Jerusalem Post (August 31, 2021): Fatah-Hamas rift deepens as Abbas moves closer to US, Israel

Past Middle East Elections

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.

Mohamed Ali Ltifi (September 3, 2021): Absence of government, parliament negatively affects Tunisia’s economy

Radwan S. Masmoudi, Foreign Policy (September 2, 2021): Keep Tunisia’s Military Out of Politics: President Kais Saied has broken a 65-year taboo.

Reuters (September 2, 2021): G7 nations urge return to constitutional order in Tunisia

Nate Grubman, Washington Post (September 1, 2021): Do Tunisians still want democracy? They support their president’s emergency measures, which seem to undermine that goal

Afghanistan Presidential Election: September 28, 2019

Afghanistan held its last presidential election on September 28, 2019. 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, defeating his main rival, Abdullah Abdullan. The election took place amid attacks by the Taliban, which had ordered Afghans not to vote.

Following the United States’ withdrawal from Afghanistan and the Taliban takeover of much of the country, the future of Afghan politics remains uncertain.

Emma Graham-Harrison and Akhtar Mohammad Makoii, The Guardian (September 7, 2021): Taliban name all-male Afghan cabinet including minister wanted by FBI: Country will once again be officially known as an Islamic emirate, as at least two people killed in protests

Fiona MacDonald and Simone Foxman, Bloomberg (September 7, 2021): Qatar May Struggle to Deliver the Revamped Taliban it Hyped

Middle East Elections Coming Up in 2021 and 2022

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

Qatar Shura Council Elections: October 2, 2021

Iraq Parliamentary Elections: October 10, 2021

Jordan Local and Gubernatorial Elections: Fall 2021 (due)

Libya Presidential and Parliamentary Elections: December 24, 2021

Lebanon Parliamentary Elections: May 2022 (due)

Algeria Early Local Elections: November 27, 2021

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 Local 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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