Middle East This Week: May 3, 2022

May 3, 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 port of Tyre, Lebanon. Photo credit: Wikimedia/Vyacheslav Argenberg (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.

Arab Reform Initiative (May 2, 2022): The Lebanese diaspora and the upcoming elections: What lessons from the 2018 voting?

The Economist (April 28, 2022): Lebanon goes to the polls amid its worst-ever financial crisis: The system is still rigged in favour of corrupt incumbents against a divided opposition

Dalal Saoud, UPI (April 26, 2022): Lebanon’s first post-collapse elections unlikely to bring desired change

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

Dilara Aslan Özer, Daily Sabah (May 1, 2022): New Libyan govt can only be declared after vote, former UN envoy says

Edith M. Lederer, AP (April 29, 2022): UN extends Libya mission after US-Russia clash

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

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.

Arab News (May 3, 2022): Tunisia to form committee to write ‘New Republic’ constitution: president

Hanen Jebli, Al-Monitor (May 2, 2022): Tunisian president grants himself power to appoint election authority

AFP (May 2, 2022): Tunisia’s president Saied announces ‘national dialogue,’ while keeping out opposition

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.

Geoff Bennett and Juliet Fuisz, PBS (May 1, 2022): Why a vocal Turkish activist’s prison sentence is a ‘nail in the coffin’ for free speech

Andrew Wilks, Al-Monitor (April 28, 2022): Opposition head displaces Ankara, Istanbul mayors as Erdogan’s next election rival: Republican People’s Party head Kemal Kilicdaroglu has entered the running for the Turkish opposition’s presidential candidate.

Ali Kucukgocmen, Reuters (April 28, 2022): Turkey’s Erdogan says ECHR ruling on jailed philanthropist Kavala no longer applies

Al Jazeera (April 27, 2022): Lawmakers, rights groups urge US to condition aid to Tunisia

Borzou Daragahi, The Independent (April 26, 2022): Life sentence for Turkish activist sends warning to Erdogan’s opponents ahead of 2023 elections: Istanbul court handed an aggravated life sentence to Osman Kavala and 18-year sentences to seven others

AFP (April 26, 2022): France condemns life sentence for Turkey’s Kavala

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.

Farhan Bokhari, Benjamin Parkin, and Chloe Cornish, Financial Times (May 3, 2022): Imran Khan plots comeback as Pakistan’s new leaders battle economic woes: Ex-leader’s anti-US rhetoric finds support among population fed up with inflation

Al Jazeera (April 28, 2022): Late PM Benazir Bhutto’s son is Pakistan’s new foreign minister: Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, 33, is scion of Pakistan’s most influential political dynasty.

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.

AFP (May 2, 2022): Yemen truce could help reverse humanitarian crisis: UN

Alexandra Stark, War on the Rocks (April 29, 2022): Can the Riyadh Reshuffle Bring Peace to Yemen?

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

Guillaume Decamme, AFP (May 3, 2022): Years after IS defeat, northern Iraq struggles to rebuild

Rashid Yahya and Samya Kullab, AP (May 3, 2022): Yazidis, displaced again, fear more strife in Iraqi homeland

AFP (April 30, 2022): Iran-Saudi tensions near end, Iraq PM says

Dilan Sirwan, Rudaw (April 29, 2022): No agreement reached between rival Iraqi Shiite parties, say Sadrists

Shawn Yuan, Al Jazeera (April 28, 2022): Turkey’s military operation causes controversy, division in Iraq

Egypt Parliamentary Elections: October-December 2020

Egypt held elections for both houses of parliament this year. They were widely considered a sham by the opposition, civil society, and the public. More

Al Jazeera (May 1, 2022): Egypt releases three journalists ahead of Eid al-Fitr: Thousands of political prisoners, however, are estimated to remain in Egyptian jails.

AP (April 28, 2022): Prominent Egyptian activist freed after presidential pardon

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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