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  • Author: David Makovksy
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Although Benny Gantz’s party lost the head-to-head battle, Avigdor Liberman’s favorable influence on the coalition math has left the general in a stronger position—and taken some diplomatic weight off the Trump administration’s shoulders. Israel’s third round of elections last week seemed inconclusive at first, but the deadlock may now be broken. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu did better this time than in September’s round two, but his gains were insufficient to form a new government. Potential kingmaker Avigdor Liberman jettisoned his previous idea of getting the two top parties to join forces; instead, personal antipathy and policy differences have led him to definitely state that he will not join any government Netanyahu leads. Thus, while centrist Blue and White Party leader Benny Gantz may have options to shape a new government, Netanyahu has no pathway on his own. In theory, the center-left bloc has the requisite number of seats for a bare majority in the 120-member Knesset, since anti-Netanyahu forces won 62 seats. In reality, the situation is more complex.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Government, Politics, Elections
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Michael Knights
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The surest way to counter Iran’s malign influence is to proactively focus on human rights issues that the new prime minister can actually affect, such as organizing free elections and preventing further violence against protestors. On February 1, a plurality of Iraqi parliamentary factions gave President Barham Salih the go-ahead to nominate Mohammed Tawfiq Allawi as the new prime minister-designate. The mild-mannered Shia Islamist nominee will now attempt to form and ratify his cabinet in the next thirty days. As he does so, political blocs will probably rally behind him while limiting his mandate to organizing early elections next year, having struggled through a long and fractious process to replace resigned prime minister Adil Abdulmahdi. For the first time since the dramatic events of the past two months, Iraqis and U.S. policymakers alike can catch their breath and consider their medium-term options.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Human Rights, Elections, Domestic politics, Protests
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Mehdi Khalaji
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: A week after Donald Trump was elected president in November 2016, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei played coy, remarking, “I have no judgment on the American election...[Both parties have been] naughty toward us.” Of course, his true reaction was far more complex. On one hand, he saw in the president-elect—who had spoken much of disentangling U.S. forces from the Middle East—a prospect of decreased military pressure on his country. On the other, he heard Trump’s raw vitriol directed at Iran’s leadership and the nuclear deal crafted by President Obama. The eventual U.S. withdrawal from the JCPOA demonstrated that the new president could back up his talk with punishing action. In this close analysis of statements by Khamenei and other Iranian leaders, former seminarian Mehdi Khalaji lays out the regime’s current views on President Trump and the United States. He shows that even after the American assassination of Qods Force chief Qasem Soleimani, Iranian leaders could be open to negotiating with Washington if they believe the regime’s existence depends on it.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Politics, Elections, Donald Trump
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Sarah Feuer
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The vote’s outcome will not have much legitimacy in the eyes of the people, so Washington should focus on urging all parties to lay the groundwork for longer-term reforms aimed at breaking the political deadlock. On December 12, nearly ten months after demonstrators across the country took to the streets in protest of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika running for a fifth term, Algeria will elect his successor. Calling itself “Hirak,” the remarkably peaceful protest movement perceived Bouteflika’s candidacy as a provocation, since he had scarcely appeared in public after suffering a stroke in 2013. And though he rescinded his candidacy in April, the Hirak began calling for more radical changes, including an end to the power structures that have ruled the country since its independence from France in 1962. In response, army chief of staff Ahmed Gaid Salah stepped in to assert control over the political process, despite the parliament’s selection of an interim president. In addition to arresting activists and putting some of his establishment rivals on trial, he pressed for an election to be held by year’s end. The political situation has since devolved into a confrontation between the Hirak and the army. With no candidate representing the protestors, this week’s vote will be a decisive test for the future of both sides.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Politics, Reform, Elections
  • Political Geography: Algeria, North Africa, United States of America
  • Author: Patrick Clawson
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Rouhani has taken a remarkably austere fiscal approach ahead of the looming parliamentary election, but the country’s economic situation is still not sustainable over the long run. On December 8, following established procedures, President Hassan Rouhani visited parliament to present his budget for the Iranian year 2020/21, which begins in March. Notwithstanding the government’s rosy rhetoric, his spending proposals show the tough times the Islamic Republic is facing.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Oil, Sanctions, Budget, Elections, Economy
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Sébastien Mort
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Institut français des relations internationales (IFRI)
  • Abstract: From the 1920s to the 1980s, the American press followed strict discursive practices based on objectivity and fairness. Starting in the 1930s, the country's political center of gravity was on the liberal side and there were few overtly conservative media. From the 1980s onwards, the vast deregulation effort undertaken by the Reagan administration paved the way for the emergence of a powerful conservative media ecosystem. Hosted by strong personalities such as Rush Limbaugh, conservative radio talk-shows were broadcast by a large number of local AM radio stations. Created in 1996, the Fox News channel gained massive traction in the 2000s. Many information websites close to the far right have gradually joined this environment.
  • Topic: Politics, Elections, Media, Conservatism, Donald Trump
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Leonard C. Sebastian
  • Publication Date: 03-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Institut français des relations internationales (IFRI)
  • Abstract: Despite Indonesia’s reputation for a traditionally moderate brand of Islam, religious conservativism is gaining considerable political traction in the lead up to this April’s presidential election. During the campaign for the 2017 Jakarta Gubernatorial elections, thousands of Muslims gathered in massive demonstrations against Ahok, the initial frontrunner and a candidate from a minority ethnicity and religion, accusing him of blasphemy. Many observers have looked at the unprecedented size of the anti-Ahok rallies and their electoral context as a watershed in the evolution of Indonesian Islam. This article analyses the seismic shift in Indonesian Islam that has occurred, with moderate Islam in steep decline while conservative Islam is on the rise. It argues that radical Islam and violent extremism in Indonesia are only the tip of the iceberg—a resurgence of conservative Islamic ideology and large-scale Islamisation of Indonesian society has occurred over the nearly two-decade old Reform Era.
  • Topic: Islam, Politics, Religion, Elections, Conservatism
  • Political Geography: Indonesia, Southeast Asia
  • Author: Stephanie Regalia
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Institut français des relations internationales (IFRI)
  • Abstract: On May 21st 2019, Malawi will hold its tripartite elections, where voters will vote for the President, Members of Parliament and local Councillors. 2019 will also mark the 25 years of multiparty politics in Malawi since the one-party regime presided by Hastings Kamuzu Banda came to an end in 1994. The transition to multiparty democracy has been encouraging with the number of large political parties steadily growing and power peacefully changing hands between the four presidents, the country has known since 1994. In this context, the race to the 2019 elections is particularly competitive. The most recent polls place voter intention for the outgoing president Peter Mutharika and his Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) at a near tie with the lead opposition candidate Lazarus Chakwera of the Malawi Congress Party (MCP). The MCP used to be the only authorized political party under Hastings Kamuzu Banda’s rule. Its return to the forefront of voter intentions signals important changes in the landscape of political actors in Malawi. This paper explores some of the reasons behind this changing political landscape. It looks at the DPP’s recent loss of support due to discontent with rampant corruption and a controversial land reform passed in 2016. It also examines the landscape of challengers, including the current Vice President Saulos Chilima, following his departure from DPP ranks to form a new political movement, the United Transformation Movement (UTM). Given the diversity of large political parties in contention, which also includes Atupele Muluzi’s United Democratic Front (UDF) and Joyce Banda’s People’s Party (PP), the possibility of securing victory in the 2019 presidential election may rest on the ability of political parties to form strategic electoral alliances. This may require moving past political parties formed solely around the personality and identity of their leaders to a more issue-based political debate.
  • Topic: Corruption, Politics, Elections, Land, Political Parties
  • Political Geography: Africa, Malawi
  • Author: Ethan Kaplan
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Economics for Inclusive Prosperity (EfIP)
  • Abstract: In sum, political institutions in the United States favor higher income individuals over lower income individuals and ethnic majorities over ethnic minorities. This is accomplished through a myriad of policies which impact who votes, allow for differential influence and access by the wealthy, structure voting districts to dilute the impacts of under-represented voters, and allow for oversized influence of pro-business owner ideas through media and membership organizations.
  • Topic: Economics, Law, Elections, Democracy, Economic Policy, Voting
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Rhoda Osei-Afful
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Ghana Center for Democratic Development
  • Abstract: The ANC's 50-50 policy ensured that 50% of its candidate list for Natonal Assembly seats were women.
  • Topic: Politics, Elections, Democracy, Political and institutional effectiveness
  • Political Geography: Africa, South Africa, Ghana