Middle East This Week: May 31, 2022

May 31, 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 market in Tunis, Tunisia. Photo credit: Wikimedia/Fares Rjeibi (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Upcoming Middle East Elections

Tunisia Constitutional Referendum: July 25, 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.

Fitch Ratings (May 30, 2022): Tunisia’s Political Tensions Continue to Hamper Reform

AFP (May 26, 2022): Tunisian president decrees July 25 referendum on ‘new republic’

Libya Parliamentary and Presidential Elections: Delayed from December 2021 – date TBD (possibly by the end of 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

Soufan Center (May 31, 2022): IntelBrief: Rival Governments Claim Power in Libya

Rami Musa, AP (May 26, 2022): Rival Libya leader says he has no plans to rule from Tripoli

Daily Sabah with AA (May 26, 2022): Libya’s PM Dbeibah proposes holding polls at end of 2022

International Crisis Group (May 25, 2022): Reuniting Libya, Divided Once More

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.

Pelin Ünker, DW (May 31, 2022): Turkey seeks to tighten media control with ‘fake news’ bill

Gurkan Ozturan, Balkan Insight (May 31, 2022): Turkey’s Disinformation Law Will Strike Further Blow to Media Freedom

Ruth Michaelson, The Guardian (May 30, 2022): Will Istanbul’s mayor be Erdoğan’s nemesis – or banned from politics?

Selcan Hacaoglu, Bloomberg (May 27, 2022): Turkey’s Rising Anti-Refugee Sentiment Adds to Erdogan’s Challenges: The hosting of millions of migrants has become a major political issue for the president ahead of 2023 elections

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.

Hasan Ali, Time (May 29, 2022): The U.S. Is Losing a Strategic, Nuclear-Armed Ally to China

Ifra Javed, The New Arab (May 28, 2022): The need for early elections amidst Pakistan’s political chaos

Ayaz Gul, Voice of America (May 26, 2022): Pakistan’s Ex-PM Khan Gives Government 6 Days to Announce Election

Asif Shahzad, Reuters (May 26, 2022): Ousted Pakistani PM Khan issues ultimatum after disbanding violent protest march

International Crisis Group (May 25, 2022): Keeping Turmoil at Bay in Pakistan’s Polarised Polity

Past Middle East Elections

Lebanon Parliamentary Elections: May 15, 2022

Lebanon held parliamentary elections for May 15, 2022. Hezbollah and its allies lost their majority in parliament, and a number of independents won seats.

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 these elections could bring a hint of change.

David Daoud, Atlantic Council (May 31, 2022): Lebanon just had an election. Its result? Curb the optimism

William Christou, The New Arab (May 31, 2022): Nabih Berri re-elected again as Lebanon house speaker, despite opposition

Hussain Abdul-Hussain, Foreign Policy (May 31, 2022): Lebanon Has an Opposition Movement Again: A new coalition could check—or even dislodge—Hezbollah and its iron grip.

Zeina Karam, Times of Israel (May 26, 2022): Lebanon’s nascent, fragmented reform movement faces tough road ahead

Hussein Dakroub, Al Arabiya (May 24, 2022): Lebanon’s election results set to bring little political change

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

Mustafa Shilani, Kurdistan24 (May 31, 2022): A ‘new initiative’ to end Iraq’s political impasse will be announced in June: Official

Cathrin Schaer, DW (May 31, 2022): Could Iraq’s political gridlock be a good sign for its democracy?

Azhar Al-Rubaie, Al Jazeera (May 30, 2022): Iraqi deadlock continues with elites unable to form government: Iraq’s Sadrists, the biggest grouping in parliament, have been unable to form a government since October’s elections

AP (May 26, 2022): Iraqi lawmakers pass bill criminalizing any ties with Israel

Shelly Kittleson, Al-Monitor (May 25, 2022): Iraq’s Kurdish parties struggle to unite amid deep divisions

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

William A. Galston, Wall Street Journal (May 31, 2022): Israel’s Politics Look Like America’s

Times of Israel (May 28, 2022): Netanyahu-led opposition bloc gains ground with voters, nearing majority, poll finds

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

AP (May 29, 2022): Egypt court sentences 2 aged Islamist leaders to 15 years

AFP (May 25, 2022): Egypt sentences ex-presidential candidate to 15 years: judiciary

Middle East Elections Coming Up in 2022 and 2023

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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