April 2009

The Frameworks for Elections in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, the Palestinian Authority and Syria

Mahjoob Zweiri
Michael Meyer-Resende


It is generally assumed that elections in the Southern Mediterranean largely lack credibility, being managed events used by political elites to gain as much political legitimacy with as little challenges to the status quo as possible. This assumption is not wrong, but it is too simplistic: First, it says nothing about the long-term trend in the region to consider elections the only source of legitimacy for political office, while in the past Socialism or Pan-Arab ideologies competed with electoral legitimacy. Second, it does not take account of exceptions, such as the genuine democratic elections for the Palestinian Authority (PA) in 2005 and 2006, or partly competitive elections in Lebanon, to name two examples from the Mashreq. Lastly, it sheds no light on the more complex picture emerging in a case-by-case review. However, to support electoral processes effectively, strategies need to be built on an analysis of each country in question.