Tuesday 14 Aug 2018 | 13:13 | SYDNEY
Tuesday 14 Aug 2018 | 13:13 | SYDNEY

Middle East: Year of the election


Rodger Shanahan


13 January 2009 08:22

Changing political landscapes in the Middle East have regularly, if not traditionally, come about as a result of conflict, coups d’etat or deaths of reigning monarchs. While the new US administration has more than enough on its plate in addressing Middle East issues even before it takes office, 2009 promises to offer the Obama Administration further challenges as it faces a regional political landscape that may alter through competitive (as opposed to 'democratic', in the purest sense) elections.

Iraq kicks off the New Year’s polling festivities with provincial elections at the end of this month followed by the more important legislative elections, which need to be held by December. The safe conduct of these elections will provide a further indication of security progress, while the results will give some insight to the relative political strength of the sectarian groups.

The current Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip has distracted attention from the fact that Israel’s general election will take place on 10 February. Whether a Labor/Kadima coalition or Likud government takes power would have had a major bearing on the direction of the peace process, but the operations against Hamas in Gaza leave the entire process on life support, if not terminal.

June sees presidential elections in Iran and a general election in Lebanon on 7 June. While the powers of the Iranian president and the list of vetted candidates are both limited, the results have provided upsets in the past, with the election of the reformist Muhammad Khatami and the conservative Ahmedinejad. The poll is also a good indication of the national mood. Still, regardless of the result, the Iranian unelected ‘old guard’ will remain in power.

The Lebanese national electoral process is complex in the extreme, and the overriding need for political consensus means compromise in the compilation of electoral lists masks the true strength of individual parties while preventing any confessional group from dominating the political landscape. Regardless, Hizbullah’s tactical alliance with the Christian Free Patriotic Movement and its takeover of West Beirut in May means pro-Syrian forces are likely to gain greater parliamentary power.  

Yemen also has its parliamentary election in April, but Saudi municipal elections due for 2009 appear to have been postponed for two years.

Photo by Flickr user ChuckHolton, used under a Creative Commons license.