Middle East This Week: December 14, 2021

December 14, 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.

A street in Ramallah. The Palestinian Authority held the first of two phases of local elections on December 11. Photo credit: Wikimedia/Mohammad Hijjawi (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Upcoming Middle East Elections

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

Ahmed Elumami and Stephanie van den Berg, Reuters (December 13, 2021): In Libya, Gaddafi leadership bid opens old wounds

Patrick Wintour, The Guardian (December 12, 2021): Libya: plan for presidential election on 24 December close to collapse: US ambassador says delay would put country at mercy of those who prefer ‘bullet power over ballot power’

Al Jazeera (December 11, 2021): Libya delays candidate list as likely election postponement looms: Disputes about fundamental rules governing the election have continued throughout the process, including over the voting timetable.

AFP (December 11, 2021): Libya delays presidential candidate list for election scheduled in less than two weeks

Mirette Magdy, Bloomberg (December 8, 2021): How Election Will Test War-Torn Libya’s Fragile Unity

Reuters (December 2, 2021): Libya court reinstates Gaddafi presidential bid amid election chaos

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.

Tessa Fox, Foreign Policy (December 6, 2021): Lebanon’s Reformers Trade the Street for the Ballot Box: After 40 years of stasis, some new faces sense a glimmer of hope to change Lebanon’s poisoned politics.

Tunisia Constitutional Referendum: July 2022 and Early Elections: Late 2022

Tunisia will hold a constitutional referendum and early elections in 2022, following protests sparked by President Kais Saied’s dismissal of the government, a move some deemed a coup.

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.

Political and civil society actors hope that the early elections can return Tunisia to a democratic path.

Reuters (December 14, 2021): Tunisia’s president calls constitutional referendum followed by elections in 2022

Tarek Amara, Reuters (December 9, 2021): One person dies, 12 injured in fire at Tunisian Ennahda party HQ


Jared Malsin, Wall Street Journal (December 13, 2021): As Turkey’s Currency Collapses, Erdogan’s Support Sinks Even in His Hometown

Kristina Jovanovski, The Media Line (December 13, 2021): Erdoğan’s opponents face increased pressure as Turkish president’s popularity declines: Analysts say Turkey’s currency crisis and rising consumer prices hurt Erdoğan’s chance of re-election.

Marc Pierini and Francesco Siccardi, Carnegie Europe (December 9, 2021): Understanding Turkey’s Direction: Three Scenarios

Diego Cupolo, Al-Monitor (December 6, 2021): Government critic elected to lead Union of Turkish Bar Associations

Past Middle East Elections

Palestinian Authority Local Elections Phase 2: March 26, 2022

The Palestinian Authority is holding elections in two phases, the first of which took place on December 11, 2021, and the second of which is due on March 26, 2022. 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. 

Daoud Kuttab, Arab News (December 13, 2021): Palestinian local elections might give a small boost to Fatah

Jack Jeffrey, AP (December 11, 2021): Some 400,000 Palestinians vote in rare municipal elections

Rami Ayyub and Ali Sawafta, Reuters (December 11, 2021): Palestinians vote in local elections amid rising anger with Abbas

Thomas Grove, Wall Street Journal (December 11, 2021): After Battling Israel, Hamas’s Popularity Rests on Hopes It Can Collect the West Bank’s Trash: Local elections will test whether Palestinians trust candidates aligned with the Gaza militant group to clean up alleged corruption

AFP (December 10, 2021): All-woman list eyes breakthrough in Palestinian poll

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 both the legislative and the local elections.

AP (December 1, 2021): Algeria’s top parties keep power in local 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

Sinan Mahmoud, The National UAE (December 14, 2021): Fraud case in Iraq elections could further delay government formation

AFP (December 13, 2021): ‘Fraud’ case against election results opens in Iraq court

Jane Arraf, New York Times (December 9, 2021): U.S. Announces End to Combat Mission in Iraq, but Troops Will Not Leave

Anonymous, Atlantic Council (December 7, 2021): Iran’s allies lost seats in the Iraqi elections. Now Tehran is recalibrating its strategy.

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

Times of Israel (December 5, 2021): New poll shows Bennett-Lapid government unpopular, but no other viable options: A plurality of Israelis prefer the former coalition to the current one, but new elections would only produce fresh deadlock

Mehul Srivastava, Financial Times (December 2, 2021): Netanyahu struggles to plot path back to power in Israel: Former PM vowed exile from government would be shortlived, but so-called Houdini has yet to stage comeback

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.

Colin P. Clarke, Foreign Affairs (December 8, 2021): When Terrorists Govern: How the Taliban’s Takeover Is Inspiring Other Jihadis

Muslim Brotherhood

The Economist (December 9, 2021): The Muslim Brotherhood is tearing itself apart: Two leaders vie for control of the oldest Islamist movement

Middle East Elections Coming Up in 2021 and 2022

Libya Presidential and Parliamentary Elections: December 24, 2021 (delays possible)

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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