Middle East

October 5, 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.

Old Basra, Iraq. Iraq holds early elections on October 10. Photo credit: Wikimedia/Lordali91 (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Upcoming Middle East Elections

Iraq Early Parliamentary Elections: October 10, 2021

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 (October 6, 2021): Sunday’s vote in Iraq clouded by a disillusioned electorate

The Observers, France24 (October 5, 2021 – video): Activists call to boycott Iraq’s upcoming elections over corruption, militia violence

Qassim Abdul-Zahra, AP (October 5, 2021): Iraq’s militias seek to consolidate political power in vote

Al Jazeera (October 1, 2021): Iraqis march in Baghdad to mark protests anniversary

Haitham Numan, Carnegie Endowment (September 30, 2021): Iraqi Elections: A Fragile Balance Set Up to Fail


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

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.

Adel Ourabah, Arab Reform Initiative (September 30, 2021): The “New Algeria” Parliament and the Illusion of Change from Within

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. 

Daily Sabah with Andalou Agency (October 4, 2021): Registration for Palestinian municipal elections opens in West Bank

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

AFP (October 5, 2021): Libyan lawmakers postpone parliamentary elections until January

Jamey Keaten and Samy Magdy, AP (October 4, 2021): UN experts decry possible crimes against humanity in Libya

Al Jazeera (October 4, 2021): Libya parliament adopts law on legislative elections

Edith M. Lederer, AP (September 30, 2021): Divided UN extends its mission in Libya till after elections

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

Jordan Times (October 4, 2021): Royal Committee proposes inclusive, mixed electoral system

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.

Mouafac Harb, Daily Star Lebanon (October 4, 2021): Iran’s new policy put to the test in Lebanon and Iraq

ANSA (September 28, 2021): Lebanon: PM says elections to take place 27 March 2022

Pakistan Local Elections in Islamabad: Due in 2021 – delays possible

Islamabad’s local government’s term ended in February 2021, and elections are overdue. Officials have said they will hold them by early 2022, but delays are possible

Ali Slimi, Foreign Brief (October 5, 2021): Pakistan election body prepares for upcoming elections

Stephanie Findlay, Financial Times (September 30, 2021): ‘A win for Pakistan’: Imran Khan gambles on Taliban ties

Past Middle East Elections

Qatar Shura Council Elections: October 2, 2021

Qatar held 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 had ever previously held were 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

AFP (October 3, 2021): Female candidates unsuccessful in first Qatari legislative elections

Andrew Mills and Lisa Barrington, Reuters (October 2, 2021): Qatar’s first legislative elections see 63.5% voter turnout

Simone Foxman, Bloomberg (October 1, 2021): Qatar Votes in First Election With World Cup Spotlight Ahead

Kuwait Parliamentary Elections: December 5, 2020

Kuwait held parliamentary elections on December 5, 2020. As could be expected, COVID-19 and the government’s response shaped public debate ahead of the elections. Meanwhile, populism is on the rise, exacerbated by the pandemic and falling oil prices. More

Ahmed Hagagy, Reuters (October 4, 2021): Kuwait launches dialogue to end standoff with parliament

Fiona MacDonald, Bloomberg (September 29, 2021): Kuwaiti Ruler Makes Unprecedented Call for Dialogue Amid Impasse

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.

Reuters (October 3, 2021): Tunisia arrests lawmaker and TV presenter who called president a traitor

Al Jazeera (October 3, 2021): Tunisia: Thousands rally in support of President Saied: Demonstrators waved Tunisian flags and carried placards critical of Ennahdha.

The Economist (October 2, 2021): Kais Saied plans to transform Tunisia. It may go bust first

Vivian Yee, New York Times (September 29, 2021): Tunisian President Appoints Prime Minister Amid Protests Over Power Grab: President Kais Saied named Najla Bouden Romdhan, the country’s first female prime minister. But it may do little to dispel fears he is moving toward one-man rule of the nation where the Arab Spring began.

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.

The Economist (October 7, 2021): Pakistan got its way in Afghanistan. Now what? The victory of its friends in the Taliban may exacerbate Pakistan’s economic and diplomatic problems

Brent Swails, Clarissa Ward and Scott McWhinnie, CNN (October 4, 2021): Women in Kabul return to work, school and the streets, in defiance of the Taliban

Zeba Siddiqui and Parniyan Zemaryalai, Reuters (October 4, 2021): Protests get harder for Afghan women amid risks and red tape

Abdul Farid Ahmad, Newsweek (October 2, 2021): 2 Weeks of Darkness in Afghanistan

Human Rights Watch (October 1, 2021): Afghanistan: Taliban Severely Restrict Media

Michael Kugelman, Foreign Policy (September 30, 2021): Pakistan Pitches the Taliban Regime to the World

Anna P. Kambhampaty, New York Times (September 29, 2021): #DoNotTouchMyClothes: Afghan Women Protest Taliban Restrictions on Rights

Middle East Elections Coming Up in 2021 and 2022

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 Early Parliamentary Elections: March 27, 2022

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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