Elections, Fractures, and Power PoliticsQuestions on the ballot, power in the presidency
The Turkish referendum on April 16 put to a single ballot a series of historical constitutional changes, including the introduction of an executive presidency. More than 51.4% of the votes went in favour of the new system, a victory for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
But allegations of electoral fraud combined with the perceivably unequal footing of the country’s opposing parties during campaigning challenged the narrow win, and the opposition umbrella has vowed to appeal. And, as Turkey looks to move on from the result, massive detentions continue on charges of supporting terrorism – in particular targeting the secular media establishment.
Economic indicators have improved since the vote, likely a combination of public spending and incentives given during the campaign trail and perceived stability in the post-referendum period. However, the continuing state of emergency is a concern for the country’s businesses, which have exhibited large foreign exchange deficits.
Algerian elections are business as usual
Parliamentary elections on May 4 left little to the imagination: The National Liberation Front (FLN) dominated votes and turnout was low at 35%, down 5% from 2012. The coalition that leads parliament – an alliance between the FLN and National Rally for Democracy – remains dominant, while the opposition is a hodgepodge of divided political and social movements.
Although the political and economic elite
President Rouhani, the Iranian juggernaut
In Iran, it was political parties that leveraged social media to rally voter bases and engage with those who were undecided. In the end, incumbent moderate President Hassan Rouhani was re-elected, his win welcomed by many with a sense of relief. Having bagged 57% of the ballots – 23m votes in total – Rouhani emerged as the undisputed winner, his nearest competitor, 56-year-old hardline cleric Ebrahim Raisi, taking only 38.5% of votes.
A sizeable turnout of about 70%, according to official data, is evidence of the convoluted nature of Iran’s "undemocratic democracy" in which people spent hours queueing to make their voices heard. It is important to note that the elections were a referendum for Rouhani’s platform. With their vote, Iranians made clear their feelings on the P5+1 nuclear agreement and what it offers: A chance to re-engage with the world and improve their and the country’s future.
“In Iran, the president, who holds little sway, is part of a complicated system in which power is split between the clerical establishment, Islamic Revolution Guard Corps, merchant class, and supreme leader.”
However, although Rouhani’s second term paves the way for further change, he cannot launch the societal reforms his supporters are holding out for. In Iran, the president, who holds little sway, is part of a complicated system in which power is split between the clerical establishment, Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC), merchant class, and supreme leader.
Regardless, Rouhani now has until 2021 to further entrench Iran in the international community. Even if US President Donald Trump takes a stronger stance on Iran than his predecessor, the nuclear deal remains, and new sanctions he has imposed on a handful of Iranian citizens and entities will not buck the trend.
But, more crucially for Iran’s future, the magnitude of his victory makes Rouhani a political juggernaut. This next term, coupled with his ability to manage Iranians’ expectations without disturbing the political equilibrium, will decide his future role in the Islamic
2017 Election Results in Algeria, Iran, and Turkey
A surprise Saudi reshuffle with precedent
In late June, Mohamed bin Nayef was replaced by Mohamed bin Salman as Saudi crown prince. Although unusual, the move did not come without precedent, with King Salman ordering Prince Nayef to replace Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz as crown prince in 2015. Although it is too early to gauge the impact of the move on Saudi policies, the new crown prince has been a power broker in national affairs since 2015, and his new rank received broad approval from the Allegiance Council, the body that manages royal succession. Along with his other new position as deputy prime minister, Crown Prince Mohamed will continue to hold the kingdom's defence and economic portfolios while pushing forward with Saudi Vision 2030.
Empowered Saudi-US relations
In early May, US President Donald Trump was in Riyadh
On May 18, two days before Trump’s visit, the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) announced the launch of Saudi Arabia Military Industries (SAMI), a national military industries company. The company will manufacture products and provide services in four units: Weapons and missiles,
“Pressure on defence spending seems inevitable and could undermine the long-term ambitions of a nationalised Saudi defence industry.”
Following approximately $110bn worth of deals signed by Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, and Boeing during Trump’s visit, foreign defence companies will seek to capitalise on Saudi Arabia’s desire for technology transfer, local production, training, and research and development. Nevertheless, pressure on defence spending seems inevitable and could undermine the long-term ambitions of a nationalised Saudi defence industry.
The deals follow a series of important royal decrees and announcements made in May that gave further momentum to Saudi Arabia’s diversification efforts, with the appointment of Mohamed Al
– John Rice, vice-chairman of General Electric and president and CEO of GE Global Growth Organisation
Through a series of deals and heavy-handed words directed at Iran, the Trump visit was a celebration and reinvigoration of US relations with the GCC. Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al Falih said deals involving
From Tehran, Iranians viewed the visit as having more glitz than substance: Little was promised or said that changes historical
Deals Made During Trump’s Visit to Saudi Arabia, May 2017 ($)
A crack leads to a fracture in Gulf relations
Tensions in the usually calm Gulf region increased after Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani allegedly made comments on Iran, Israel, and Hamas that oppose the policies of other GCC states. Friction had been building for years due to Qatar’s regional policies in Libya and Syria, and its support for the Muslim
The ability of the GCC – until recently the only effective regional organisation in WANA – to function as a council that both provides security, as well as resolves disputes, is in doubt. The Qatar diplomatic crisis will probably clear the way for other states’ involvement in GCC affairs. This includes regional states such as Turkey and Iran, but also powers not traditionally involved such as Russia and Germany. The addition of more political actors impacts the ability of the bloc’s members to work together, and may, over the long term, foster regional instability.
As Daesh retreats, realpolitik fills the vacuum
On June 7, Daesh conducted its first successful attack on Iranian soil: Five gunmen and suicide bombers struck Tehran's parliament complex and the
“Local disarmament and de-escalation deals between the government and opposition will likely continue increasing.”
Elsewhere, Turkey, Russia, and Iran reached an agreement on May 4 to establish de-escalation zones in parallel with a six-month truce across Syria’s main flashpoints. The truce has largely held, enabling the army to divert resources to frontlines against Daesh in east Aleppo province and
The government and some factions within the opposition have been advancing to secure their spots in areas recently recaptured from Daesh, particularly in south-east Syria near the borders with Jordan and Iraq. Kurdish forces, re-equipped by the US-led coalition with heavy weapons, have surrounded Raqqa in anticipation of a summer offensive to dislodge Daesh from its self-proclaimed capital.
Daesh has suffered