Middle East This Week: January 18, 2022

January 18, 2022

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 building of Al-Isra University College in Baghdad. Iraq’s government formation negotiations continue following October’s elections. Photo credit: Wikimedia/Mahmoudalrawi (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Upcoming Middle East Elections

Palestinian Authority Local Elections Phase 2: March 26, 2022 and General Elections: Long Overdue

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 17 of a four-year term. Similarly, the last Legislative Council elections took place in 2006. 

Hamas, which controls Gaza, did not allow the local elections to take place there in December and has said it will also bar the March elections.

Michael Jansen, Irish Times (January 11, 2022): Abbas enters his 17th year in power amid criticism and uncertainty: Long-tenured Palestinian leader’s crowning achievement has yet to achieve desired results

Lebanon Parliamentary Elections: May 15, 2022

Lebanon has set parliamentary elections for May 15, 2022. 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, with its currency hitting record lows and crippling inflation.

Many Lebanese people are in a state of despair, but some have hope that the upcoming elections could bring a hint of change.

Editorial Board, The National UAE (January 18, 2022): The end of Hezbollah’s boycott is unlikely to bring progress to Lebanon

Dave Gavlak Voice of America (January 12, 2022): Political Opponents Reject Lebanese President’s Call for Dialogue

Tunisia Constitutional Referendum: July 15, 2022 and Early Legislative Elections: December 17, 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.

Al Jazeera (January 15, 2022): Tunisia police use water cannon to disperse protesters

Alexander Martin and John M. Carey, Arab Reform Initiative (January 13, 2022): Why Tunisia’s parliamentary electoral formula needs to be changed

Libya Parliamentary and Presidential Elections: Delayed from December 2021 – could possibly happen by June 2022

Libya’s national elections are overdue and have been postponed due to the political crisis and civil war. Most recently, the country missed the scheduled date of December 24, 2021 for the polls, and it is unclear when they will happen. The UN has urged elections by June 2022.

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

Matthew Zais, Atlantic Council (January 14, 2022): Where is the United States? Military basing and energy are the real prizes in Libya.

Samy Magdy, AP (January 17, 2022): UN official: Libya elections could be rescheduled for June

Bahrain Parliamentary Elections: November 2022 (due)

Bahrain is due to hold parliamentary elections in November 2022. Since a 2011 uprising, Bahrain has become increasingly authoritarian and repressive, especially vis a vis the Shi’ite opposition (Bahrain is more than half Shi’hite but ruled by a Sunni royal family). The opposition was barred from participating in the last elections in 2018. Moreover, the monarch has executive power as well as the power to appoint the prime minister and cabinet. Therefore, parliament is generally not very powerful.

Human Rights Watch (January 13, 2022): Bahrain: Repression Marks Uprising Anniversary

Turkey General Elections: By June 18, 2023 (snap elections possible)

Turkey is due for general elections in June 2023, but 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.

Andrew Wilks, Al-Monitor (January 14, 2022): Journalists in Turkey see media domain narrowing as elections approach

Pakistan General Elections: By October 12, 2023

Pakistan is due to hold its next general elections by October 12, 2023.

Benjamin Parker and Farhan Bokhari, Financial Times (January 18, 2022): Taliban victory unleashes hardline forces in Pakistan: Imran Khan welcomed Islamists’ conquest but is struggling to contain emboldened extremists at home

Hamid Mir, Washington Post (January 11, 2022): Opinion: Why 2022 is shaping up to be a nightmare year for Imran Khan

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 ultimately reversed course and urged his followers to support the elections. He subsequently proceeded to win the elections. However, other parties – specifically, pro-Iran Shi’ite parties – challenged the election results. The Supreme Court rejected the challenge, and Sadr, who opposes both Iranian and American influence in Iraqi politics – will be the kingmaker in the new government. More 

Cathrin Schaer, DW (January 18, 2022): Hope for democracy in Iraq as political violence escalates

Dilan Sirwan, Rudaw (January 18, 2022): Sadrists will make final call on government formation: official

Jane Arraf, New York Times (January 13, 2022): Rockets Possibly Fired by Pro-Iran Assailants Target U.S. Embassy in Iraq

AP (January 11, 2022): Iraq’s Shiite divide makes forging government tough task

Sinan Mahmoud, The National UAE (January 11, 2022): Pro-Iran Shiite factions in Iraq warn of ‘tough days’ amid election row

Thanassis Cambanis, World Politics Review (January 11, 2022): Iraq Is One Step Closer to Forming a New Government

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, Times of Israel (January 17, 2022): How Islamist lawmaker Mansour Abbas has shaken up Israeli politics

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.

Atal Ahmadzai and Faten Ghosn, The Conversation (January 18, 2022): Taliban 2.0 aren’t so different from the first regime, after all

Robyn Dixon, Washington Post (January 10, 2022): Russian political action man sets up shop in Kabul in bid to win deals for Moscow

Regional Analysis

Courtney Freer, Brookings Institution (January 12, 2022): 21st century Bedouin politics: Considering the modern power of tribes in the Arabian Peninsula

Rafiah Al Talei, Carnegie Endowment (January 11, 2022): The Arab Youth:
Aspirations for the New Year

Middle East Elections Coming Up in 2022 and 2023

Libya Presidential and Parliamentary Elections: January 24, 2021 (delayed from December 24, 2021 – additional delays possible)

Palestinian Authority Local Elections Phase 2: March 26, 2022

Lebanon Parliamentary Elections: May 15, 2022

Tunisia Constitutional Referendum: July 25, 2022

Bahrain Parliamentary Elections: November 2022 (due)

Tunisia Early Legislative Elections: December 17, 2022

Turkey Presidential and Legislative Elections: By June 18, 2023

Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Parliamentary Elections: September 2023

Pakistan General Elections: By October 12, 2023

Israel Local Elections: October 2023

Oman Consultative Assembly Elections: October 2023

United Arab Emirates Federal National Council Elections: October 2023 (indirect elections, advisory body with limited powers)

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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