Middle East This Week: November 30, 2021

November 30, 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 8th century Umayyad Palace in Amman, Jordan. Jordan has scheduled local elections for March 22, 2022. Photo credit: Wikimedia/لا روسا (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Upcoming Middle East Elections

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. 

Amy Spiro, Times of Israel (November 30, 2021): Hamas says it reaches deal with Qatar for it to subsidize Gaza public employees

Libya Parliamentary and Presidential Elections: December 24, 2021

Libya’s national elections are overdue and have been postponed 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. At this point, it looks like the elections are moving forward, with candidates declaring. However, delays are always possible.

Since the collapse of Muammar Qaddafi’s dictatorship in 2011, Libya has been in crisis. The country is important because of its oil resources, as well as its ports, which have become a springboard for migrants to Europe. As such, foreign powers remain heavily involved. More

Colum Lyncg, Jack Detsch, and Robbie Gramer, Foreign Policy (November 23, 2021): U.N. Libya Envoy Abruptly Resigns Ahead of Critical Elections: Libya still reeling from proxy war between rival foreign powers

Tahani Elmogrbi, Atlantic Council (November 23, 2021): Chairman of Libya’s High National Election Commission: Libya doesn’t have the right environment for a referendum

Daily Sabah (November 21, 2021): 24 to run in Libyan elections as obstacles, divisions persist

Heba Saleh, Financial Times (November 19, 2021): Prodigal Gaddafi son taps into nostalgia for stability of father’s rule in Libya

Mirette Magdy, Bloomberg (November 16, 2021): Libya’s Haftar to Join Qaddafi’s Son in Contesting Election

Wolfram Lacher and Emadeddin Badi, Washington Post (November 16, 2021): Many Libyans already dismiss next month’s elections as illegitimate

Jordan Local Elections: March 22, 2022

Jordan will hold local elections on March 22, 2022. 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. Despite challenges, Jordan has generally been stable and politically moderate.

Jordan has been a close partner of the United States for several decades, and was designated a major non-NATO ally in 1996. More

Laith al-Journaidi, Andalou Agency (November 28, 2021): Jordan sets March 22 as date for local elections

Suleiman Al-Khalidi, Reuters (November 22, 2021): Jordan parliament begins debate on constitutional changes

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.

Timour Azhari and Maha El Dahan, Reuters (November 30, 2021): Lebanon Christian politician says vote delay would lead to country’s ‘slow death’

Al Jazeera (November 30, 2021): Lebanon wants ‘best relations’ with Saudi Arabia, GCC, Aoun says: President Michel Aoun tells Al Jazeera, Lebanon is seeking to mend ties with Saudi Arabia and other GCC states amid an ongoing diplomatic rift.

AP (November 20, 2021): US congressmen in Lebanon over crippling economic crisis

Reuters (November 19, 2021): Lebanese president baulks at March polls amid economic meltdown

Sally Farhat, France24 (November 19, 2021): Expats mobilize: Lebanon’s 2022 election, the needed ‘seed of change’

Stephanie T. Williams, Brookings Institution (November 19, 2021): Is Hezbollah overplaying its hand inside Lebanon?

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.

Hurriyet Daily (November 23, 2021): Elections will be held as scheduled, in 2023: Erdoğan

Ece Toksabay and Halilcan Soran, Reuters (November 19, 2021): Turkish opposition calls for early election amid lira meltdown

Jared Malsin and Anna Hirtenstein, Wall Street Journal (November 18, 2021): Turkey Currency Crisis Threatens Economy, Posing Challenge to Erdogan Rule: Lira slides to record low after central bank cuts rates again

Past Middle East Elections

Algeria Early Local Elections: November 27, 2021

Algeria held early local elections on November 27, 2021.

These follow the snap legislative 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 legislative elections.

AP (November 30, 2021): Algeria’s top parties keep power in local elections: The parties of Algeria’s ruling majority dominated local and regional elections while Islamist parties saw their support diminish

AFP (November 27, 2021): Algerians vote in local elections amid little hope for real change

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

Shawn Yuan, Al Jazeera (November 30, 2021): Iraq announces final results of October parliament election: Final election results confirm victory for Muqtada al-Sadr, a prominent Shia leader, whose political bloc the Sadrist Movement won a total of 73 out of 329 seats.

Qassim Abdul-Zahra, AP (November 18, 2021): Iraqi Shiite cleric calls on pro-Iran militias to disband

Ali Mamouri, Al-Monitor (November 18, 2021): Sadr calls for majority government, ‘liquidation’ of Iraqi militias

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).

Christopher Cox, Carnegie Endowment (November 24, 2021): Further into the Wilderness: The Never-ending Plight of the Left in Morocco

Patrick S. Snyder, Washington Post (November 16, 2021): Morocco’s Islamist party just lost power. So why is it turning to its old leader?

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. However, the coalition remains tenuous. More

Tia Goldenberg, AP (November 23, 2021): Back in power, Israel’s Left finds its influence is limited

Egypt Parliamentary Elections: October-December 2020

Egypt held elections for both houses of parliament this year. They were widely considered a sham by the opposition, civil society, and the public. More

Elizabeth Hagedorn, Al-Monitor (November 30, 2021): US ‘concerned’ over conviction of prominent Egyptian activist: Hossam Bahgat avoided jail time but was ordered to pay a fine for “insulting” the country’s National Election Authority.

Mona El-Naggar, New York Times (November 29, 2021): In Latest Assault on Dissent, Egypt Convicts a Human Rights Activist

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 (November 21, 2021): Blinken Prods Tunisia on Reforms in Call With Leader

Middle East Elections Coming Up in 2021 and 2022

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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