Middle East This Week: April 26, 2022

April 26, 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.

Araks Street in Beirut, Lebanon. Lebanon holds elections in May. Photo credit: Wikimedia/Leon Petrosyan (CC BY-SA 4.0)

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.

Katherina Kroll, DW (April 26, 2022): The war in Ukraine is driving hunger in Lebanon

Sally Farhat, France24 (April 26, 2022): Lebanese youths seek a brighter future abroad amid economic, political crises

Kareen Chehayeb, Al Jazeera (April 26, 2022): Saudi Arabia, France launch humanitarian projects in Lebanon

Toni Nissi, Wall Street Journal (April 24, 2022): There’s Hope for a More Peaceful Lebanon: Hezbollah dominates the country’s politics, but activists are trying to reclaim the title ‘Switzerland of the Middle East’ for their country

Seth J. Frantzman, Jerusalem Post (April 23, 2022): Hezbollah hopes to use Al-Aqsa tensions in Lebanese elections

Najia Houssari, Arab News (April 22, 2022): Sudden exchange rate turmoil angers Lebanese ahead of parliamentary elections

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

Reuters (April 26, 2022): Libya’s Parliament-Backed PM Says He Discussed Efforts to Hold Elections With U.S. Officials

Soufan Center (April 26, 2022): IntelBrief: Libya Slides Back into Chaos Amid Spiking Oil Prices

Daily Sabah with Agencies (April 19, 2022): Libya’s east, west administrations end election talks without deal

Daniel Capurro, The Telegraph (April 19, 2022): Libyan PM: We can cover the Russian oil shortfall … for a price

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.

Mohamed Dhia Hammami and Sharan Grewal, Washington Post (April 26, 2022): How much popular support does Tunisia’s president really have?

Reuters (April 22, 2022): Tunisian president seizes control of electoral commission

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.

Ali Kucukgocmen and Ece Toksabay, Reuters (April 26, 2022): Turkish opposition vows to overturn sentences against Kavala, others

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.

Kunwar Khuldune Shahid, The Diplomat (April 25, 2022): The Rise, Fall, and Rise of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf: Imran Khan’s unceremonious fall from the prime minister’s office has only reinvigorated his devoted supporters.

Dawan Pakistan (April 22, 2022): Elections will be held after govt completes its tenure, says [Federal Information Minister] Marriyum Aurangzeb

Mubasher Bukhari, Reuters (April 21, 2022): Ousted Pakistani PM Khan demands fresh elections

AP (April 19, 2022): Pakistan’s new Cabinet sworn in at presidency in Islamabad

PTI (April 19, 2022): Pakistan Army chief General Bajwa calls on newly-elected PM Shehbaz Sharif

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.

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

Julian Belocha, Rudaw (April 24, 2022): Sadr proposes to ban normalization of ties with Israel

Elizabeth Hagedorn, Al-Monitor (April 22, 2022): US urges Iraqi government formation as stalemate drags on: The deadlock has left Iraq without a new budget amid the economic uncertainty stemming from Russia’s war in Ukraine

Mina Aldroubi, The National UAE (April 20, 2022): Iraq’s political stalemate to ‘result in prolonged crisis’

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.

Local elections in Jerusalem are due on October 31, 2023 More

Ilan Ben Zion, AP (April 25, 2022): Israeli minister: Parties trying to keep coalition afloat

France24 (April 20, 2022): Fragile coalition under threat in Israel: Arab party suspends government membership

Peggy Cidor, Jerusalem Post (April 20, 2022): Countdown to Jerusalem elections begins – Safra Square gets ready

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.

Franz J. Marty, The Diplomat (April 26, 2022): The Peculiar Case of Elections Under the Taliban: The election of neighborhood representatives in Kabul suggests that the Taliban are in some aspects pragmatic, but this experiment will likely remain limited.

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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