Middle East This Week: September 28, 2021

September 28, 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 Al Zubarah fort in Qatar. Qatar holds its first-ever legislative elections on October 2. Photo credit: Wikimedia/Steven Byles (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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. 

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

Sofia Meranto, GZERO (September 29, 2021): Qatar learns international spotlight can be uncomfortable

Gregory Walton, AFP (September 29, 2021): Qatar ready for tightly-controlled first legislative polls

Al Wakrah, AFP (September 28, 2021): Red carpet, prayers and kisses as Qataris go to the polls

Abdel Marzooq, Carnegie Endowment (September 23, 2021): Qatar’s Legislative Elections: A Debate for Citizenship Rights Against Tribal Dominance

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

Jane Arraf, New York Times (September 29, 2021): Talk of Iraq Recognizing Israel Prompts Threats of Arrest or Death

AFP (September 29, 2021): Top Iraq Shiite cleric urges voting in parliamentary poll

Alison Pargeter, War on the Rocks (September 28, 2021): Tribes, Political Parties, and the Iraqi Elections: A Shifting Dynamic

Reuters (September 28, 2021): Factbox: Who’s competing in Iraq’s elections?

Samya Kullab, AP (September 27, 2021): Shadow contracts, corruption keep the lights out in Iraq

AFP/JIJI (September 26, 2021): ‘Apathy and despair’ seep through Baghdad ahead of Iraq’s October election

Layal Shakir, Rudaw (September 24, 2021): Who’s who in the Iraqi elections?

Djamel Belayachi, France24 Observers (September 23, 2021): Growing calls to boycott Iraq’s legislative elections as activist murders go unpunished

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.

The Economist (September 25, 2021): Algeria’s ex-president is dead, but his regime lives on

AFP (September 24, 2021): Algeria Ex-Presidential Candidate Jailed

Irish Times (September 25, 2021 – obituary): Abdelaziz Bouteflika obituary: President of Algeria for nearly 20 years: Independence veteran from the 1950s and 1960s left office following mass protests in 2019

Palestinian Authority Local Elections Stage 1 of 2: 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. 

Dalia Hatuqa, Foreign Policy (September 24, 2021): A High-Profile Trial Spells Tribulation for the Palestinian Authority

Aaron Boxerman, Times of Israel (September 22, 2021): Hamas rejects Palestinian Authority’s call for municipal elections

Khaled Abu Toameh, Jerusalem Post (September 21, 2021): Palestinian factions oppose PA plan to hold municipal elections: The PA government said that the first phase of the elections, the first since 2017, will be held on December 11.

Taylor Luck and Fatima Abdulkarim, Christian Science Monitor (September 21, 2021): Palestinian leaders are ready for talks. Their voters aren’t so sure.

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

Jennifer Holleis, DW (September 24, 2021): Libya: Will elections finally bring healing?

AFP (September 23, 2021): Libya’s Haftar says suspends military role, ahead of polls

Rami Musa, AP (September 21, 2021): Libya lawmakers pass no confidence vote for transition govt

Arab Weekly (September 21, 2021): Unsure of Libya’s upcoming presidential elections, Islamists prefer to delay them

Libya Observer (September 23, 2021): Four major countries call for Libya’s elections to be held on time

Jordan Local Elections: Fall 2021 (due)

Jordan is due to hold local elections in fall 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

Lebanon Parliamentary Elections: May 2022 (but will likely take place earlier)

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.

Will O’Brien, Geopolitical Monitor (September 29, 2021): Census and Consensus in Lebanon: Najib Mikati’s First Step

Kareem Chehayeb, Al Jazeera (September 28, 2021): Lebanon: Hezbollah seeks to deflect anger through fuel patronage: Analysts say the Iran-backed party’s expanding patronage aims to boost its popularity amid Lebanon’s energy crisis.

Nader Durgham, Suzan Haidamous and Liz Sly, Washington Post (September 24, 2021): Hezbollah flexes its muscles in Lebanon and provides free Iranian fuel

Reuters (September 24, 2021): Lebanon president tells U.N. big challenges await government, help needed

AFP (September 23, 2021): ‘People have lost hope’: Lebanon’s only suicide hotline inundated

Hanin Ghaddar, Politico (September 21, 2021): Hezbollah’s Grip on Lebanon Is Weakening. Here’s How Washington Can Help.

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 (September 27, 2021): Bahrain authorities jailed hundreds of children: Report

Trevor Filseth, National Interest (September 27, 2021): Senators Urge Accountability for Bahrain Human Rights Abuses

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).

AFP (September 25, 2021): Three women to lead major Morocco cities

Al Jazeera (September 22, 2021): Morocco’s premier Akhannouch announces coalition agreement: Aziz Akhannouch said the three biggest winners of this month’s parliamentary election had agreed to form a new cabinet.

Kamal Abdul Latif, The New Arab (September 21, 2021): Morocco elections: After the Islamists’ fall, a stagnant political system remains

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

Al Jazeera (September 28, 2021): Talks to draft Syria’s constitution to resume on October 18

Wladimir van Wilgenburg, Kurdistan24 (September 28, 2021): Syrian Democratic Council leader confirms plans to hold elections in northeast Syria in the future

Daily Sabah with AA (September 27, 2021): Syrian opposition urges US to push Assad for political transition

Israel Parliamentary Elections, Take 4: March 23, 2021

On March 23, 2021, Israel held its fourth general election in two years after the collapse of the unity government of Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz. Neither Netanyahu’s allies nor his opponents won a majority. Netanyahu, whose conservative Likud party won the most seats, had the first chance to form a coalition, but he failed. Subsequently,Yair Lapid from the centrist Yesh Atid formed a broad coalition with conservative Naftali Bennett, with Bennett as prime minister for a time before rotating the position to Lapid. A number of other parties are in the coalition, which passed a Knesset vote on June 14, thus ending Netanyahu’s 12 years in office. More

Adam Rasgon, New York Times (September 25, 2021): In Reversal, Israel’s New Government Engages With Palestinian Authority

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. The move has sparked protests and condemnations from political and civil society actors in Tunisia.

Mostafa Salem, CNN (September 29, 2021): Tunisia’s president appoints woman as prime minister in first for Arab world

Vivian Yee, New York Times (September 27, 2021): As Tunisia’s President Cements One-Man Rule, Opposition Grows: In his latest step to consolidate power, President Kais Saied set up a system under which he will essentially govern the country by decree, bypassing the Constitution.

Ayman Jamli and Francoise Kadri, Times of Israel (September 27, 2021): 2,000 Tunisians rally against president’s ‘coup’ after power grab

Reuters (September 26, 2021): Tunisians protest against president’s power grab as opposition deepens

AFP (September 24, 2021): Tunisia parliament speaker urges ‘peaceful struggle’ against president’s power grab

Middle East Elections Coming Up in 2021 and 2022

Qatar Shura Council Elections: October 2, 2021

Iraq Parliamentary Elections: October 10, 2021

Jordan Local and Gubernatorial Elections: Fall 2021 (due)

Palestinian Authority Local Elections Stage 1 of 2: December 11, 2021 (tentative)

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)

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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