Middle East and North Africa

Articles about voting issues in the Middle East and North Africa.

Egypt: The opposition is calling for a boycott of this month’s election. Will it work? | The Washington Post

Later this month, Egyptians will go to the polls to reelect Abdel Fatah al-Sissi to his second term as president. An all too familiar scenario is playing out: Sissi is the only viable candidate. His sole challenger, Mousa Mostafa Mousa, is the head of a party that had endorsed Sissi before entering its own candidate at the last minute. Other potential challengers were threatened, intimidated or arrested into withdrawing. The regime’s harassment and deterrence of potential opposition candidates do not always lead to calls for boycotting. This time, however, 150 opposition figures and seven political parties came together to denounce the elections as a farce and call for a boycott of the upcoming polls. As with most boycott campaigns, the opposition’s decision has roused its share of detractors who dismiss the strategy as ineffective and even a threat to Egypt’s security. The situation in Egypt raises a critical question: Do boycotts work? Read More

Egypt: Voting for Egyptian expatriates in presidential elections begins Friday | Al Arabiya

Voting in Egypt’s presidential elections for Egyptian expatriates begins on Friday morning. The voting committees in the embassies of Egypt abroad will open their doors at 10:00 am on Friday for a period of three days, according to the National Elections Commission the days announced are March 16, 17 and 18 to choose one of the candidates for the presidency. The candidates are President Abdul-Fattah Al-Sisi, represented by the star symbol and candidate Mousa Mustafa Mousa, head of Al Ghad Party using the plane icon. The voting takes place in 139 committees in 124 countries abroad, at the headquarters of 123 embassies and 16 Egyptian consulates under the supervision of 714 Egyptian diplomats. Read More

Iraq: U.S. accuses Iran of trying to influence Iraq’s election | Reuters

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis accused Iran on Thursday of “mucking around” in Iraq’s May parliamentary election, in which Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is seeking another term after a successful, U.S.-backed war against Islamic State militants. The ballot will decide Iraq’s leader for the next four years, when Baghdad will be faced with rebuilding cities and towns seized from Islamic State, preventing the militants’ return and addressing the sectarian and economic divisions that fueled the conflict. Among Abadi’s challengers are former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and Hadi al-Amiri, a former transportation minister – both of whom are among Iran’s closest allies in neighboring Iraq. Read More

Turkey: Parliament approves controversial changes to election laws | Associated Press

Turkey’s parliament has approved a set of changes to the country’s electoral laws that critics say are aimed at helping President Recep Tayyip Erdogan consolidate power and could lead to election fraud. The changes were approved Tuesday after a tense, all-night session that saw altercations between nationalist and main opposition lawmakers. Turkey faces elections next year, when Erdogan will need to secure 51 percent of the vote to remain at the helm. The changes would allow Erdogan’s ruling party to enter a formal alliance with the nationalist party, permitting the smaller party to gain parliamentary seats even if it fails to pass the 10-percent electoral threshold. In turn, Erdogan would secure the nationalists’ continued support. Read More

Egypt: President Sissi wages election campaign with no real challenegers | The Washington Post

The election billboards of President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi are everywhere in this bustling capital. They read: “Yalla Sissi” — “Go Sissi” in Arabic — urging him on for a second term. Egyptian voters will struggle to find a billboard for his only challenger. That obscure candidate, after all, said weeks ago that he wants Sissi to remain as president. Moussa Mostafa Moussa has so far not given speeches, made television commercials or bought newspaper ads seeking votes. On March 4, his first election rally was attended by no more than 25 supporters. As leader of the centrist Ghad Party, Moussa has been one of Sissi’s staunchest supporters and part of a well-orchestrated effort backing Sissi for a second term. Last weekend, Moussa told a state-owned television program that he doesn’t want to debate Sissi because he’s “not here to challenge the president.” Read More

Egypt: Ahead of a farcical election, Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi goes after the press | The Economist

Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, Egypt’s president, could not ask for a better mouthpiece than Khairy Ramadan, a talk-show host. When activists started a Twitter campaign to mock the president, Mr Ramadan proposed banning the social network. And like Mr Sisi he calls the revolution of 2011, when the previous strongman, Hosni Mubarak, was overthrown, a foreign plot. But during his show on February 18th, Mr Ramadan talked of a police colonel who earns 4,600 pounds ($261) per month. To supplement his income, the colonel’s wife sought work as a cleaner. Mr Ramadan, who confessed to having a “soft spot” for the notoriously brutal cops, wondered why they were paid so little. He can now ask them directly. Apparently seen as disrespectful, on March 3rd he was arrested. Read More

Pakistan: From law to action: election reforms in Pakistan | Daily Times

“We have all the necessary and good laws in Pakistan, but we fail to implement them!” This is a common lamentation in Pakistan. Whatever the subject is — politicians, civil society, lawyers, journalists and governmental officials make this claim. But is this true? In one area that has attracted much public controversy, this was not the case: The election laws lacked many provisions needed for credible, transparent and inclusive elections. The controversies in the 2013 elections were not simply ‘losers crying sour grapes’. Genuine shortcomings in the election laws, which undermined Pakistani elections for many years were repeatedly pointed out by civil society, observers and eventually also confirmed in the inquiry commission setup to investigate the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) accusations of systemic rigging in 2013 general elections. The Commission found no systematic rigging but pointed to many systemic problems. Read More

Egypt: Electoral body announces list of approved election observers | Africanews

Egypt’s National Election Authority (NEA) has approved dozens of NGOs to observe and monitor the upcoming presidential election due to take place in late March. Mahmoud Lasheen, NEA’s official spokesperson, told Egypt Today that 53 local civil organizations and nine international and Arab organizations have been accredited to observe and monitor the 2018 presidential election in which two presidential candidates have been officially announced for the presidential bid. “The nine international organizations approved by the NEA are as follows: Ma’ona Association for Human Rights and Immigration, Yemen, America, Arab Organization for Human Rights, Libyan Academic Organization, Sweden Center for Human Rights, Global Council for Tolerance and Peace, Volunteers Association without Borders, the Ecumenical Alliance for Human Rights and Development, Assyrian Monitor For Human Rights and the International Center for Research and Human Rights in Brussels,” Lasheen added. Read More

Iraq: Ethnic, religious groups fragmented as elections near | Associated Press

Long beset by toxic divisions, Iraq seems to be growing even more fragmented ahead of national elections scheduled for May, with Iranian influence set to grow and the minority Sunnis seething as they fend for themselves in areas of the country shattered by the three-year war against the Islamic State group. The Sunnis, many of them in displacement camps, bore the brunt of the war’s destruction and have been left so bereft that many don’t even have the papers needed to register to vote. If they don’t end up feeling the vote was fair, that could badly undermine the international community’s goal of bringing about the more inclusive government critical to maintaining a unified state and avoiding a repeat of the IS disaster. Read More

Turkey: Opposition sounds alarm over proposed voting law changes | Reuters

Turkey’s opposition said on Thursday new electoral regulations proposed by President Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling party and its nationalist allies could open the door to fraud and jeopardise the fairness of 2019 elections. Under a draft law submitted to parliament on Wednesday, security force members will be allowed into polling stations when invited by a voter, a measure the government says will stamp out intimidation by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in the mainly Kurdish southeast. The bill also grants the YSK High Electoral Board the authority to merge electoral districts and move ballot boxes to other districts. Ballots will be admissible without the stamp of the local electoral board, formalising a decision made during a referendum last year that caused a widespread outcry among government critics and concern from election monitors. Read More