Elections in the Middle East had ramifications in 2021

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One of our realizations in 2021 was that elections had consequences. The contexts and effects of the elections varied from country to country. But the 2021 elections were impactful for better, for worse, or both. Here is our list of four choices and two non-choices that we consider momentous and why.

Three major elections: Israel, Iran and Iraq

-Israel (March 23, 2021): Netanyahu goes under

The fourth Israeli election in two years showed a split electorate with prime ministers Benjamin NetanyahuThe Likud party received the most votes (24.9% of the votes cast) and the most seats (30) in the 12-member Knesset or parliament.

But Israel’s longest-serving Prime Minister (1996-1999; 2009-2021) had burned too many bridges to pave a new ruling coalition. A center-right alliance of the party leader “New Right” (Yamina) Naftali Bennett and centrist party leader “There is Future” (Yesh Atid) Yair Lapid ousted Netanyahu more than two months later, on Jan.

An important finding from the elections was the turnaround of the star Mansour Abbas, Head of the United Arab List (Ra’am Party). Although Ra’am only has four members, Abbas has been courted by both Netanyahu and the Bennett / Lapid coalition. Never before have the Arab citizens of Israel, who make up more than 20% or about 1.9 million of the 9 million Israeli citizens, had such an influence on Israeli politics.

Another trend is Israel’s continued opposition to a revival of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) (Iran nuclear deal). Israel’s new government may be stylistically different from Netanyahu, but not in terms of content when it comes to Iran. Ben Caspit has an overview of how the US move to increased sanction pressure and evidence of a credible military option are a justification for the Bennett / Lapid administration, “which has carefully and in a spirit of partnership tried to remove the” dark shadow “. of differences over Iran policy in US-Israel relations. “

-Iran (June 18, 2021): Iran’s right turn

The presidential elections in Iran were marked by apathy among voters and the awareness of the population for the stacking of decks by Colonel Leander Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his conservative followers on the Guardian Council, which is reviewing election candidates, as we have written here.

Only 48.8% of Iranians voted, the lowest turnout since the 1979 revolution and despite a last-minute exit – the Khamenei-led election campaign.

62% of them voted in favor Ebrahim Raisiwho, in contrast to its predecessor, is assigned to the “principleists” or right-wing political parties, Hassan Rouhaniwho forged an alliance with Iranian centrists and reformists, which were crushed in the 2020 elections to the Islamic Consultative Assembly (majles or parliamentary elections).

Perhaps as a kind of protest vote, invalid or blank votes came in second with 13% (previous blanks only made up 2.2% of the ballot papers in previous elections) Sarbas Nazari reported.

Rouhani and his supporters paid a political price when the Trump administration withdrew from the JCPOA in May 2018 and reinstated sanctions that put back the Iranian economy, which was boosted by the nuclear deal.

Raisi has slowly pushed the nuclear talks with Iran, but negotiations are ongoing in Vienna. Despite the tougher line, he has strong incentives to strike a deal. When he was sworn in before the Majles on August 5th, Raisi said: “The sanctions against Iran must be lifted and we will support any diplomatic plan that achieves this goal.”

Iraq (October 10, 2021): Elections usher in a new era

In a possible upheaval for Iraqi politics, Iranian parties previously thought to be mediators of Iraqi electoral policy were lost and independents linked to the October 2019 protest movement were won.

The top vote winner in the elections to the 329-seat Council of Representatives or Parliament was the Iraqi populist cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, which has gained 73 seats.

Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi came into office in May 2020 after the resignation of his predecessor, Adil Abdul-Mahdiwho was forced to resign after brutal crackdowns by the security forces against pro-democracy demonstrators.

Kadhimi, a former journalist and human rights activist, has pledged to reform and call for early elections in response to protesters’ demands. His government, in close cooperation with the United Nations, has passed a new and transparent electoral law.

Akeel Abbas writes that with the confirmation of Iraqi election results this week, “the constitutional clock begins to tick and deadlines must be met: the new parliament must convene and elect its spokesman within 15 days of confirmation. The largest bloc must be registered. ” Within 30 days of this parliamentary session, parliament should elect a new president who will put the largest bloc in charge of forming a government. “

Parliament meets on January 9th. “The Shiites have to choose the prime minister from among their ranks and agree on the president elected from the Kurds and the parliamentary speaker elected from the Sunnis,” explains Abbas.

Syria (May 26, 2021): Assad is re-elected despite the collapse of the UN process

No wonder the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad overwhelmingly won re-election and we will not waste any space in going into detail.

While the Syrian government sent the UN envoy to Syria Geir Pedersen that the elections were decoupled from the draft constitution mandated by the United Nations, the elections and subsequent events may have signaled the obvious: that UN Security Council Resolution 2254 (2015), which outlined the political process to end the civil war is increasingly dead letter.

Pedersen described the recent negotiations between members of the constitutional committee in October as a “great disappointment”. and said the delegation sent from Damascus had failed to make the necessary proposal.

As we report here, Pedersen was forced to take a new approach. “I think there is now a way to explore what I call a ‘step-by-step’ approach, where you put steps on the table that are precisely defined, verifiable and hopefully can begin to build trust. “He said after a meeting with Syrian government officials in December.

Two elections that did not take place (and still important): Palestine and Libya

-Palestine (April 29, 2021): Mahmoud Abbas Summer of Discontent

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas “Angered many Palestinians by canceling elections after it appeared that support for his ruling Fatah party coalition in the West Bank had eroded. Abbas and Fatah have likely suffered losses, both to former Fatah leaders who broke with Abbas and founded new parties, and to Hamas, the Islamic resistance movement that ruled Gaza and which had previously had little support in the West Bank “, we wrote in June.

“Abbas justified the cancellation by accusing Israel of not allowing Palestinians living in Jerusalem the right to vote, which most Palestinians did not buy. Expulsions of Palestinians from Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood,” we said.

Needless to say, Israel and Hamas, who tried to capitalize on the confrontations in Jerusalem, were on a full war basis on May 10th. “

Abba’s popularity has dropped even lower since then. Palestinians see Abbas and the PA as “indirect accomplices in maintaining the status quo of permanent occupation,” such as Daoud Kuttab explained.

-Libya (12/24/2021): Foreign forces contribute to the delay

Libya has postponed the elections scheduled for December 24th as part of the United Nations-brokered agreement to end the civil war and reconcile armed groups. But foreign forces continue to interfere in the fragile process and disrupt it, like North Africa expert Jalel Harchaoui declared to Amberin Zaman.


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