Middle East This Week: October 19, 2021

October 19, 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.

Najaf, Iraq, hometown of Shiite populist firebrand cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, whose allies remain the biggest force in Iraq’s parliament following the October 10 elections. Photo credit: Wikimedia/سید محمود جوادی (CC BY 3.0)

Upcoming Middle East 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.

Constant Méheut, New York Times (October 16, 2021): Macron Commemorates 1961 Paris Police Killing of Algerian Protesters

Francisco Serrano, Foreign Policy (October 14, 2021): Algeria Needs a Second Liberation: This time, from its aged rulers

Al Jazeera (October 13, 2021): Algeria court jails brother of deposed President Bouteflika

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

Anas El Gomati, Atlantic Council (October 13, 2021): Libya’s elections are around the corner. But the country needs a hard reset.

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

Osama Al Sharif, Al Monitor (October 13, 2021): Jordanians lukewarm on government reform proposal

Lebanon Parliamentary Elections: March 27, 2022

Lebanon has set parliamentary elections for March 27, 2022, over a month early. 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.

Reuters (October 19, 2021): Lebanon confirms March elections amid race to secure IMF rescue

AFP (October 17, 2021): Low turnout as Lebanese mark two years of protests

Tamara Qiblawi, CNN (October 16, 2021): How an investigation into Beirut’s port explosion is rattling Lebanon’s elite, stirring memories of civil war

Asmaa al-Omar and Vivian Yee, New York Times (October 15, 2021): Lebanon Observes Day of Mourning After Deadly Sectarian Clashes: The death toll rose to seven a day after gun battles between Christian and Shiite Muslim militias erupted amid tensions over an investigation into the port explosion last year.

Maha El Dahan and Tom Perry, Reuters (October 14, 2021): Explainer: What’s happening in Lebanon

Past Middle East Elections

Iraq Early Parliamentary Elections: October 10, 2021

Iraq held 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.

The elections took place in the context of widespread protest and political instability. The 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 reversed course and urged his followers to support the elections. He subsequently proceeded to win the elections. More

Al Jazeera (October 19, 2021): Iraqi protesters demand election recount in Baghdad: Hundreds of Iraq’s Hashd al-Shaabi supporters protest against ‘fraud’ and call for a recount of the October 10 vote.

Seth J. Frantzman, Jerusalem Post (October 18, 2021): After Iraqi elections, Iraq’s Kurdistan region is in the spotlight – analysis

Jane Arraf, New York Times (October 16, 2021): After Iraqi Election, a Shiite Leader Emerges as an Unlikely U.S. Ally The U.S. once threatened to kill Muqtada al-Sadr as his militia battled occupying forces. Now, the powerful cleric is helping Washington by keeping Iran at bay.

Fareed Zakaria, Washington Post (October 14, 2021): Opinion: The underappreciated success of Iraqi democracy

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

Dania Thafer, Washington Post (October 14, 2021): Qatar’s first elected parliament may have more power than other Persian Gulf legislatures. Here’s why.

Reuters (October 14, 2021): Qatar emir appoints two women to advisory council after men sweep polls

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

AP (October 17, 2021): UN: Syria government, opposition to begin drafting charter: The UN’s envoy for Syria has announced that the Syrian government and opposition have agreed to start drafting constitutional reforms for the war-torn country

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.

Mariam Abdel Baky and Olfa Lamloum, openDemocracy (October 19, 2021): Tunisia’s president has given himself unprecedented powers. How will he use them?

Elizia Volkmann, Al-Monitor (October 18, 2021): Activists call Tunisia’s first female prime minister mere distraction

AP (October 14, 2021): Tunisia’s President Saied revokes predecessor’s passport

Sihem Bensedrine, Washington Post (October 13, 2021): Opinion: Why sliding back into autocracy won’t solve Tunisia’s problems

Middle East Elections Coming Up in 2021 and 2022

Algeria Early Local Elections: November 27, 2021

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

Libya Presidential and Parliamentary Elections: December 24, 2021

Jordan Local and Gubernatorial Elections: Fall 2021 (due)

Lebanon Early Parliamentary Elections: March 27, 2022

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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