Middle East This Week: April 19, 2022

April 19, 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.

The National Museum in Sana’a, Yemen. Yemen’s president has resigned and power has transitioned to a presidential council in the wake of a cease-fire in the civil war that has raged since 2015. Photo credit: Wikimedia/Shoestring at Wikivoyage (public domain)

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.

Kareem Chehayeb, Al Jazeera (April 12, 2022): Saudi Arabia rekindles ties with cash-strapped Lebanon

Fadi Tawil, AP (April 11, 2022): EU election mission to begin deploying observers in Lebanon

Timour Azhari and Laila Bassam, Reuters (April 8, 2022): Lebanon may not enact IMF reforms before election, lawmakers say

Hanan Hamdan, Al-Monitor (April 5, 2022): Lebanese elections marked with high number of youth candidates: In the parliamentary elections due in May, dozens of youth and women are hoping to break the cycle of political nepotism and bring new faces to the country’s parliament.

AFP (April 1, 2022): Cash-strapped Lebanon struggles to turn lights on for polling day

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, and there are currently two rival governments.

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

Hamza Hendawi, The National UAE (April 19, 2022): UN-brokered Libya talks end without a deal on elections

Samy Magdy, AP (April 13, 2022): Libya’s rival officials meet in Egypt for talks on elections

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.

Chaker Houki, Geopolitical Monitor (April 14, 2022): Tunisia Backslides on Human Rights as World Looks on

Editorial Board, Washington Post (April 13, 2022): The last, best hopes of the Arab Spring fade away in Tunisia

Tarek Amara, Reuters (April 13, 2022): Tunisian union opposes presidential preconditions for national dialogue

Alessandra Bajec, Al Jazeera (April 4, 2022): Saied accused of taking Tunisia back towards one-man rule: In another abrupt, constitutionally dubious move, Kais Saied formally ended parliament reining in his near-total grip on power.

Reuters (April 1, 2022): Tunisia’s president says no early elections after dissolving parliament

Iraq, Kurdistan Regional Elections: October 1, 2022

Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region plans to hold parliamentary elections on October 1, 2022.

Wladimir van Wilgenburg, Kurdistan24 (April 10, 2022): Deputy Speaker Hawrami underlines importance of holding Kurdistan Parliament elections on time

Dania Saadi, S&P Global (April 7, 2022): Rockets fall near oil field in Iraq’s Kurdistan as infrastructure attacks intensify

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.

Reuters (April 19, 2022): Turkey’s pro-Kurdish party submits defence against ‘political’ case

Selcan Hacaoglu, Bloomberg (April 12, 2022): Turkey Ramps Up Pressure on Kurdish Party With New Arrests

Andrew Wilks, Al Monitor (April 4, 2022): Turkey revises election law in risky bid to block breakaway conservatives

AP (March 31, 2022): In Win for Erdogan, Turkish Parliament Approves Election Law Changes

Andrew Wilks, Al-Monitor (March 19, 2022): Possible closure of political party dampens Nowruz for Turkey’s Kurds

Pakistan General Elections: By October 12, 2023

Pakistan is due to hold its next general elections by October 12, 2023. However, Prime Minister Imran Khan has surprisingly called for early elections after surviving a no-confidence vote. However, it is unclear when – or whether – the snap elections will take place.

Khan, a former cricket star, came to power following the turbulent 2018 elections, and his time in office has not been calm. In 2020, his party took a major political hit when it failed to win a majority in the Senate, and he has faced several no-confidence threats. Instability has been a characteristic of Pakistan’s politics since its founding. In fact, no prime minister has completed a full term since the country’s founding in 1947.

Pakistan is a geopolitical hotspot, between the conflict in Kashmir and continued heavy military presence and China’s increased presence through the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

AP (April 11, 2022): Shahbaz Sharif sworn in as Pakistan’s new prime minister after week of political drama

Ravi Buddhavarapu, CNBC (April 4, 2022): Imran Khan’s surprise call for snap elections in Pakistan may just pay off

Diaa Hadid, NPR (April 3, 2022): Pakistan is thrown into crisis after the prime minister dissolves parliament

Yemen Elections: TBD

Yemen has been in a civil war since 2015. A cease-fire was announced on April 2, and subsequently power was transferred from President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi to a new Presidential Leadership Council.

Arab News (April 13, 2022): UN Security Council welcomes transfer of power in Yemen, praises GCC contribution

Thanassis Cambanis, World Politics Review (April 12, 2022): A Window of Opportunity Has Opened for Ending Yemen’s War

Al Jazeera (April 7, 2022): Yemen president hands powers to new leadership council: Analysts say developments offer glimmer of hope for country devastated by seven years of war.

Michael Jansen, Irish Times (April 7, 2022): Yemen’s exiled president resigns as truce signals possible end to war

Past Middle East Elections

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

The Palestinian Authority held elections in two phases, on December 11, 2021 and 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. 

Eid H.J. Mustafa and David Frank, Jerusalem Post (April 11, 2022): Did Fatah win the March Palestinian Authority elections? Fatah claimed a crushing victory in the PA elections, but expert analysis shows they suffered a landslide defeat.

The New Arab (April 7, 2022): Palestinian PM tells British MPs UK has ‘responsibility’ to recognise his country’s statehood

Carter Center (April 5, 2022): Carter Center: Palestinian Municipal Elections Well-Administered, Steps Urgently Needed to Facilitate National Polls

Entsar Abu Jahal, Al-Monitor (March 29, 2022): Hamas boycotts West Bank elections, members run in independent lists

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.

Sadr, who opposes both Iranian and American influence in Iraqi politics – was thought to be the likely be the kingmaker in the new government. But he is currently refusing to conduct talks with his rivals, resulting in deadlock. More

France24 and Lucille Wassermann, France24 (April 19, 2022 – video): Six months on from elections, Iraqis frustrated by political deadlock

Rudaw (April 14, 2022): Washington pressuring Iraqi parties to ‘quickly’ form a gov’t: top US official

Ali Mamouri, Al-Monitor (April 13, 2022): Iraq’s political deadlock: three scenarios

Dana Taib Menmy, The New Arab (April 6, 2022): Iraq plunges into a constitutional crisis, yet to elect a president

David Schenker, The Hill (March 31, 2022): Kurdish infighting could undermine a sovereign Iraqi government

Samya Kullab, AP (March 31, 2022): Iraqi cleric steps back, asks rivals to try form government

Sinan Mahmoud, The National UAE (March 30, 2022): Pro-Iran parties in Iraq derail third parliament session to elect new president

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

Jack Khoury, Haaretz (April 17, 2022): Despite Jerusalem Clashes, Israel Isn’t Heading for War or Elections

Gil Hoffman, Jerusalem Post (April 15, 2022): Israeli political possibilities: Elections, Knesset coup, Bennett stays?

Barak Ravid, Axios (April 6, 2022): Israeli government on brink of collapse after key lawmaker quits coalition

Seth J. Frantzman, Jerusalem Post (April 6, 2022): Will political uncertainty in Israel lead to Iran conflict?

Middle East Elections Coming Up in 2022 and 2023

Lebanon Parliamentary Elections: May 15, 2022

Libya Presidential and Parliamentary Elections: Overdue (delayed from December 24, 2021 – no date set but some have proposed to hold the elections by June 2022)

Tunisia Constitutional Referendum: July 25, 2022

Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Parliamentary Elections: October 1, 2022

Bahrain Parliamentary Elections: November 2022 (due)

Tunisia Early Legislative Elections: December 17, 2022

Turkey Presidential and Legislative Elections: By June 18, 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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