September 21, 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 marshes of southern Iraq. Photo credit: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers via Wikimedia/Hassan Janali (public domain)
Upcoming Middle East Elections
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. \
Outspoken migrant worker Malcolm Bidali who was arrested in #Qatar for being a foreign agent is writing for Doha News about the Shura Council's chance to become a true representation of the people rather than big business after the elections https://t.co/0GZdTTrkrP
— Dr Andreas Krieg (@andreas_krieg) September 22, 2021
Gulf Centre for Human Rights, IFEX (September 20, 2021): Qatar: Demonstrators remain detained for protesting election laws
Sidi Mohamed, The Peninsula Qatar (September 16, 2021): 28 women among 284 in race for Shura Council
Kuwait Times (September 15, 2021): Campaigning opens for first ever Qatar legislative polls
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
Chloe Cornish, Financial Times (September 21, 2021): Moqtada al-Sadr seizes the moment ahead of Iraq elections
Haider Husseini and Mina Aldroubi, The National UAE (September 17, 2021): Iraq’s young voters believe election can change political landscape
Charlotte Bruneau, Reuters (September 16, 2021): Braving intimidation, hundreds of Iraqi women run for parliament
Sinan Mahmoud, The National UAE (September 14, 2021): Iraq election: candidates get to work to win over voters – Iraqis to choose from 3,249 politicians competing for 328 seats when polls open on October 10
Algeria Early Local Elections: November 27, 2021
Algeria plans to hold early local elections on November 27, 2021. These follow the snap elections held 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.
Stephanie Hanes, Washington Post (September 17, 2021): Abdelaziz Bouteflika, Algeria’s former surveillance-state strongman, dies at 84
Committee to Protect Journalists (September 15, 2021): Algerian journalist Mohamed Mouloudj detained on charges of terrorism and spreading false news
Palestinian Authority Local Elections: December 11, 2021, plus Presidential and Legislative Elections: Long overdue, postponed indefinitely
The Palestinian Authority has proposed holding local elections on December 11, 2021. The PA 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
Khaled Abu Toameh, Jerusalem Post (September 21, 2021): Palestinian factions oppose PA plan to hold municipal elections
AP (September 21, 2021): Nearly 80 Percent of Palestinians Want Abbas to Resign, New Poll Finds
Khaled Abu Toameh, Jerusalem Post (September 16, 2021): Palestinians to hold municipal elections in December: The Palestinian Authority has decided to hold municipal elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in December for the first time since 2017.
Daoud Kuttab, Al-Monitor (September 15, 2021): Palestinian NGOs begin campaign against political corruption
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
The Arab Weekly (September 21, 2021): Unsure of Libya’s upcoming presidential elections, Islamists prefer to delay them
AFP (September 16, 2021): Controversy over voting law overshadows Libya election
Al Jazeera (September 16, 2021): Egypt’s el-Sisi backs December elections in Libya: Egyptian president holds talks with Libya’s interim Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, days after meeting renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar
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.
Hanin Ghaddar, Politico (September 21, 2021): Opinion | Hezbollah’s Grip on Lebanon Is Weakening. Here’s How Washington Can Help.
Zinya Salfiti, Foreign Policy (September 20, 2021): Does Lebanon Finally Have a Government That Can Fix the Mess? Probably not. But after a year of stalemate, even old faces are better than none.
Becky Anderson, Zeena Saifi and Mostafa Salem, CNN (September 17, 2021): New Lebanon PM seeks ‘quick fixes’ to help his country out of economic crisis
Hanan Hamdan, Al-Monitor (September 18, 2021): Will Iranian fuel solve fuel crisis in Lebanon? Lebanese economists do not see any benefit from the Iranian fuel shipments that recently entered Lebanon, with support from Hezbollah, amid the worsening fuel crisis in the cash-strapped country.
Issam Abdallah, Reuters (September 17, 2021): Feted with petals, Hezbollah brings Iranian fuel into Lebanon
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.
i24News (September 17, 2021): In First for Israeli Diplomat, Lapid to Visit Bahrain
Lisa Barrington, Reuters (September 15, 2021): Bahrain releases some political prisoners under new law
Past Middle East Elections
Morocco Legislative and Local Elections: September 8, 2021
Morocco held legislative, provincial, and local elections on September 8, 2021. The elections took place in the context of discontentment and disillusionment. The moderate Islamic democratic Party of Justice and Development (PJD), which won the most seats in the 2016 elections, lost badly and will not form the next government.
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).
AP (September 22, 2021): Morocco: 3 parties agree to form new coalition government
Idris Al-Kanbouri, The Arab Weekly (September 18, 2021): The fall of Morocco’s PJD is that of political Islam: Experience has shown that voter reluctance to participate in the polls favours Islamists, while high turnouts weaken them.
Cathrin Schaer, DW (September 15, 2021): An end to neo-Islamism in the Middle East?
Magdi Abdelhadi, BBC (September 16, 2021): How Morocco’s king dealt a blow to political Islam
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 Argoubi, Reuters (September 21, 2021): Tunisian president declares transitional rules, new electoral law
The New Arab (September 21, 2021): Tunisia party says president’s power grab risks ‘dismantling state’
Bouazza Ben Bouazza, AP (September 18, 2021): Dueling Tunisian protests erupt over president’s power grab
The Economist (September 18, 2021): What next for Islamists in the Arab world? Setbacks in Morocco and Tunisia mark the end of a tough decade for Islamists
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.
Kathy Gannon, AP (September 16, 2021): Friction among Taliban pragmatists, hard-liners intensifies
Shibley Telhami and Marc Lynch, Brookings Institution (September 20, 2021): Academic experts believe that Middle East politics are actually getting worse
Middle East Elections Coming Up in 2021 and 2022
Palestinian Authority Local Elections: December 11, 2021 (tentative)
Algeria Early Local Elections: November 27, 2021
Bahrain Parliamentary Elections: November 2022 (due)
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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