Middle East This Week: November 2, 2021

November 2, 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.

Kasbah Square in Tunis, home to several Tunisian government buildings. Tunisia’s democracy sits at a crossroads following a power grab by the president. Photo credit: Wikimedia/Kassus (CC BY 2.5)

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.

Stratfor (October 25, 2021): Algeria: Political Parties Condemn Disqualification of Local Election Candidates

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

Patrick Wintour, The Guardian (October 24, 2021): Libya moves closer to holding high-risk presidential elections

Lauren Jackson, New York Times (October ): Will Libya Be Ruled by Another Qaddafi? The former dictator’s son is running for office. Can he win?

Al Jazeera (October 21, 2021): Libyan PM, foreign powers back landmark election in December

AFP (October 19, 2021): 10 years since Kadhafi death, stability still eludes Libya

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.

Sarah El Deeb, AP (October 20, 2021): Beirut clash fires up sectarian anger in echo of civil war

Dalal Saoud, UPI (October 19, 2021): Two years after Lebanon uprising, hopes for change pinned on elections

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

Turkey General Elections: By June 25, 2023 (snap elections possible)

Although Turkey is not due for general elections until 2023, there have been rumors of possible snap elections, and more than half of Turkish citizens want an early vote. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) has been in power since 2003, and although the party initially ran on a reformist platform, it has become increasingly authoritarian. A 2017 constitutional change, with passed very narrowly in a referendum, replaced the parliamentary system with a presidential system, and gave the presidency new powers.

Freedom House consequently downgraded Turkey from Partly Free to Not Free in 2018.

The Economist (October 28, 2021): As the lira tanks, so does the stock of Turkey’s president

David Gardner, Financial Times (October 26, 2021): Erdogan’s wrath is damaging Turkey

Selim Koru, War on the Rocks (October 25, 2021): There Was Once a Dream That Was the Turkish Republic

Carlotta Gall,New York Times (October 23, 2021): Turkish Opposition Begins Joining Ranks Against Erdogan: With an eye on elections, six parties are working on a plan to end a powerful presidency and return to a parliamentary system.

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

Mahmut Bozarslan, Al-Monitor (November 1, 2021): Iraq’s elections weaken PKK in Sinjar: Iraq’s October elections may have strengthened the Iraqi Kurdistan administration’s hands in the Yazidi enclave of Sinjar.

Ranj Alaaldin, Brookings Institution (October 28, 2021): Muqtada al-Sadr’s problematic victory and the future of Iraq

Thomas O Falk, Al Jazeera (October 23, 2021): Muqtada al-Sadr: Iraq’s kingmaker in uncertain times: Al-Sadr’s party controls 70 of a total 329 parliamentary seats in Iraq and the movement has a large base across country.

NPR (October 28, 2021 – audio): Why Iraq’s Protest Movement Led To An Election That Millions Sat Out

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 (October 31, 2021): Morocco’s Islamist PJD party chooses new leader after defeat

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 Aboudouh, The Independent (October 25, 2021): A new Kuwait? Gulf state’s leader prepares to pardon dissidents, paving the way for political reform

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.

Bedirhan E. Mutlu, TRT World (October 28, 2021): Whither political Islam in Tunisia?

Stratfor (October 27, 2021): Tunisia: Ennahda Party Defectors Seek to Establish New Political Party

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

Hanen Jebli, Al-Monitor (October 19, 2021): Tunisia’s new government sworn in without parliamentary approval

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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