Middle East This Week: March 29, 2022

March 29, 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.

Roman aqueducts in Jericho, West Bank. The Palestinian Authority held its second and final stage of local elections on March 26. Photo credit: Wikimedia/Daniel Ventura (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Upcoming Middle East Elections

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.

Najia Houssari, Arab News (March 16, 2022): Over 1,000 candidates register for Lebanese elections

Heba Saleh, Financial Times (March 15, 2022): Disillusioned Lebanese lose faith with politicians ahead of poll

Al Jazeera (March 14, 2022): Lebanon’s PM Najib Mikati says not running for re-election: Mikati’s decision upends Sunni Muslim politics in Lebanon, weeks after ex-PM Hariri’s withdrawal from politics.

Libya Parliamentary and Presidential Elections: Delayed from December 2021 – date TBD (possibly 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. Following the election delay, the political crisis deepened. The UN has urged elections by June 2022. Libya’s parliament had said elections would not take place this year, but the new interim prime minister, Abdelhamid Dbeibah, later said that the elections would happen by June.

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

International Crisis Group (March 18, 2022): Steering Libya Past Another Perilous Crossroads

UN News (March 16, 2022): Tensions rise in Libya as risk of ‘parallel governments’ grows, Security Council hears

Reuters (March 10, 2022): U.N. Libya adviser aims for elections agreement this month

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.

Malek Lakhal, Arab Reform Initiative (March 23, 2022): The ghost people and populism from above: The Kais Saied case

Euronews (March 14, 2022): Tunisia opposition holds protest against President Saied’s power grab

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.

Pinar Tremblay, Al-Monitor (March 18, 2022): How Turkey’s election bill could backfire on Erdogan’s ruling party

Laura Pitel, Financial Times (March 14, 2022): Unexpected Turkish electoral reforms could hit Erdogan’s opponents

Daily Sabah (March 14, 2022): AK Party, MHP announce draft for Turkey’s new election law

Pakistan General Elections: By October 12, 2023

Pakistan is due to hold its next general elections by October 12, 2023. The the last general elections, in 2018, former cricket star Imran Khan – seen as the military’s preferred candidate – became prime minister when his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) won the most seats. The elections were  turbulent. Te main opposition parties are former prime minister Nawaz Sharif‘s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), founded by Zulfikar Bhutto and still led by members of the Bhutto family.

In October 2020, 11 of Pakistan’s opposition parties, including the PML and the PPP, united to form the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), ahead of indirect Senate elections in March. In those elections, PTI failed to win a majority, a major political hit for Imran Khan.

Madiha Afzal and Adrianna Pita, Brookings Institution (March 25, 2022): Why is Pakistani PM Imran Khan facing a no-confidence vote?

Munir Ahmed, The Diplomat (March 22, 2022): Pakistan’s Khan Rallies Supporters Ahead of No-Confidence Vote: Recent mutinies within Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party could tip the scales against him, resulting in his ouster.

Past Middle East Elections

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

The Palestinian Authority held local 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 repeatedly postponed its long overdue elections.

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. 

AFP (March 26, 2022): Palestinians elect West Bank councils in rare democratic exercise

Aaron Boxerman, Times of Israel (March 26, 2022): Palestinians hold West Bank local elections as independent lists proliferate: Hamas formally boycotts vote, but some members still competing across region; Palestinians have not seen national elections for over a decade and a half

Jordan Local Elections: March 22, 2022

Jordan held 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

Daoud Kuttab, The Media Line (March 24, 2022): Jordan’s Islamist boycott of local elections makes no difference – analysis

The New Arab (March 23, 2022): Jordan unrest after local elections sees dozens detained

Khaled Yacoub Oweis, The National UAE (March 22, 2022): Jordanian municipal elections marred by low turnout as hope for change dwindles

Rana Husseini, Jordan Times (March 22, 2022): Local polls witness 29.64% voter turnout — IEC

The New Arab (March 22, 2022): Jordanians begin voting in local and provincial elections amid opposition boycott

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 likely be the kingmaker in the new government. More

AFP (March 26, 2022): Iraq fails again to elect new president, remaining mired in political paralysis

The New Arab (March 18, 2022): What’s behind Iran’s missile strikes in Erbil?

Dana Taib Menmy, The New Arab (March 10, 2022): Why Iraq is struggling to elect a president

Renad Mansour and Benedict Robin-D’Cruz, Foreign Policy (March 10, 2022): Why Muqtada al-Sadr Failed to Reform Iraq: Iraq’s most recent election promised change but ended up entrenching the establishment.

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.

Dipali Mukhopadhyay, Foreign Affairs (March 28, 2022): The Taliban Have Not Moderated: An Extremist Regime Is Pushing Afghanistan to the Brink

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