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The Journal for politics, economics, and culture of the Middle East published by the German Orient-Institute

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01/07/20

The COVID-19 pandemic: One more challenge for Iran

Iran is the country most affected by COVID-19 in the Middle East and was one of the first after China to experience an exponential development of the pandemic. The pandemic has coincided with three parallel and interlinked crises: a geopolitical confrontation with the US and Iran’s Arab neighbours; the dual shock of the oil price decline and hard-hitting US secondary sanctions, and the US refusal to ease its sanctions during the pandemic. Sanctions had already affected Iran’s health security system and crisis preparedness before COVID-19, reducing access to medical supplies and increasing the country’s vulnerability. But the interplay of multiple crises could shape Iran’s capability handle a second wave of COVID-19 in the future and complicate the transnational management of the pandemic. However, adopting a cooperative approach could create positive incentives for a change of direction in the Middle East, reducing pressures on a stressed global health security system.

Luigi Narbone is Director of the Middle East Directions Programme at the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies as well as coordinator of the Peace and Security cluster at the School of Transnational Governance, European University Institute. Previously, he was Ambassador, Head of the EU Delegation to Saudi Arabia, and non-resident Ambassador to Qatar, Oman, Bahrain, the UAE and Kuwait and has held several positions in foreign affairs in the EU and the UN. His main research interests are MENA geopolitics, security and political economy, Gulf studies and peace-building.

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01/07/20

Strengthening health research: What are the insights from conflict-affected settings in the MENA region?

Health research in the MENA region needs urgent attention to meet the rising health and economic challenges, including those related to protracted conflicts. Health research in the MENA region struggles at various levels with cultural, financial and technical challenges and has a dearth of multidisciplinary approaches and evidence-based health policies. Such barriers can be mitigated by long-term and contextualised support via international and regional partnerships, enhanced intersectoral communication and political will.

Nassim El Achi is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Conflict Medicine Program of the Global Health Institute of the American University of Beirut (GHI-AUB) in lebanon. She is working on capacity strengthening of health research and health systems in conflict settings as part of the Research for Health in Conflict (RH4C-MENA) project.

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01/07/20

War fighters, not health defenders: Yemen’s Houthis differ from Shia militias on COVID-19

In Yemen, COVID-19 has not been a driver of conflict de-escalation so far: rather, it accelerates political fragmentation and strengthens local players. The internationally-recognised government and the Houthi de facto authority adopt two different patterns of security governance (centralised vs multiple and multilevel), both unable to effectively deal with this crisis. Differently from the main Shia armed groups (IRGC; Hashd al Shaabi; Hezbollah), the Houthis are not using the pandemic to display governance effectiveness nor to present themselves like protectors of public health.

Eleonora Ardemagni is an expert of Yemen, Gulf monarchies and Arab military forces. She is an Associate Research Fellow at the Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI), a Teaching Assistant at the Catholic University of Milan and Gulf Analyst for the Nato Defense College Foundation.

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01/07/20

Fighting the first corona war: The securitisation of the coronavirus in the Middle East

As the coronavirus spread across the Middle East, many states and non-state actors securitised the corona crisis: that is, used warlike rhetoric to frame the pandemic as a national security issue or mobilised the state’s military and security services in the country’s fight against COVID-19. This article examines the government’s responses to the coronavirus in Israel, Jordan, and Egypt, as well as the securitised responses to the pandemic by lebanese Hezbollah and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Adam Hoffman is a Junior Researcher at the Middle East Network Analysis Desk at the Moshe Dayan Center, Tel Aviv University, and a lecturer at the Rothberg International School of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. His research interests include the ideology and political behaviour of salafi-jihadi groups, the evolution of the global jihad movement, states responses to foreign fighters and securitisation in the Middle East. He holds an M.A. in political science from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

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01/07/20

Reflexive politics and Arab ‘risk society’? COVID-19 and issues of public health

Zeroing in on the notion of “risk society,” this article attempts to unpack the challenges posed by COVID-19 on the Arab world. It highlights problems of inequality within and between Arab states with respect to public health infrastructure and access. Weak governance, conflict, repression of civil society, and external dependency pose deep challenges for capacity development in Arab public health as the state increasingly abdicates its distributive responsibilities. However, a perspective of critical reflexivity can jump-start rethinking by both policymakers and citizens to tackle problems of inequity and marginalization in looking ahead to Arab post-COVID politics and public health.

Larbi Sadiki is Professor of Arab Democratization at Qatar University. He is editor of Routledge Handbook of Middle East Politics: Interdisciplinary Inscriptions (2020), as well as lead Principle Investigator of the QNRF-funded ‘Transitions of Islam and Democracy: Engendering ‘Democratic learning’ and Civic Identities.’ He recently was a guest editor of a Special Issue of The International Spectator titled ‘The GCC in Crisis: Explorations of “Normlessness” in Gulf Regionalism.’

Layla Saleh is Associate Professor of Political Science at Qatar University. She is author of US Hard Power in the Arab World: Resistance, the Syrian Uprising, and the War on Terror (Routledge, 2017), and a Principal Investigator in the QNRF-funded ‘Transitions of Islam and Democracy.’ With larbi Sadiki, she was guest editor of a Special Issue of The International Spectator titled ‘The GCC in Crisis: Explorations of “Normlessness” in Gulf Regionalism.’

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01/04/20

Peace versus democracy? The US peace deal with the Taliban in the context of Afghanistan’s government crisis

With a US-Taliban peace agreement signed and NATO troops about to leave, Afghanistan is again at a decisive moment where its political and social order and its role as a western partner are renegotiated. The Taliban leadership seems ready to move from combat to politics. The current government crisis and hardened intra-Afghan conflicts put the pluralist-democratic achievements of the past twenty years at risk when going to the negotiation table with the Taliban. If the inner political struggles remain unsolved, Afghans risk losing all, its hard-won democracy and prospects for peace.

Ellinor Zeino, PhD, is Country Director of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung’s Afghanistan Office in Kabul. The main focus of her work and research is on the Afghan peace process in the context of regional and international interests, regional confidence-building and national reconciliation between Taliban and all sections of the Afghan society.

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01/04/20

Election security in Turkey

Electoral integrity is a crucial element of securing trust in democratic institutions, elected and appointed. However, the malpractices or manipulations of the voting act and vote choice are becoming common in order to stabilise and secure the hegemony of majority in hybrid regimes, thus delegitimising the core principle of democracy, the right to vote freely and fairly. Even though electoral irregularities have been a common issue since 1946, the recent disputes about election processes – including false registry, government intimidation, recounting of votes and the re-run of elections – have deteriorated the legitimacy of the credible election management in Turkey. This study aims to explain the sources of violations of election security during the last presidential and parliamentary elections in 2018 and the local administration elections in 2019 on concrete evidence collected by non-governmental organisations.

Ömer Faruk Gençkaya is Professor for Political Science and Public Policy at Marmara University in Istanbul. He researches and publishes mainly on political finance, anti-corruption and legislatures.

Pınar Dikmen holds an MA degree in law and is a doctoral candidate at Marmara University in the field of constitutional jurisdiction. She has served in various constitutional law and human rights centres in France, including the Sorbonne as visiting researcher.

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01/04/20

Israel and its electoral system

On 2 March 2020, Israel held its third election in less than a year. The first in April 2019 and the second in September 2019 did not enable any party to install a governmental coalition and present a prime minister. This led Israel into a long and deep governmental crisis. What caused this crisis? How is the Israeli electoral system build? How does the Palestinian community in Israel impact the political landscape? These are the questions that shall be discussed in this article.

Katharina Konarek is the academic coordinator of the German funded Haifa Center for German and European Studies (HCGES) at the University of Haifa. Before, she worked as a project manager for the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and in Poland.

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01/04/20

The Algerian Hirak: youth mobilisation, elections and prospects for reform

Throughout 2019, millions of mainly young Algerians mobilised peacefully, after an unconstitutional decision by ailing president Bouteflika to run for a fifth term. largely underreported, the Hirak movement has profound implications. After two cancelled elections, Algerians went to the polls in December 2019, electing Abdelmadjid Tebboune as president. The election saw low turnout, as all candidates had links to the former regime, and Algerians continue to peacefully protest and organise politically for real reform.

Jessica Ayesha Northey is Postgraduate Research Director at the Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations, Coventry University. She is the author of Civil Society in Algeria: Activism, identity and the democratic process (I.B.Tauris, 2018).

Latefa Guemar is Research Associate with the University of East london. She has conducted extensive research in Algeria, North Africa and the Middle East with a focus on forced
migration and gender.

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01/04/20

How sustainable is the Tunisian democratic exception?

Unlike the rest of the Arab Spring countries, which failed to democratise, Tunisia seems to have brought its democratic transition to a successful completion. Since 2011, the country embarked on a challenging electoral process along with the building of a new institutional architecture. After a number of consecutive free, competitive and undisputed elections, the debate about Tunisia’s democratisation has shifted from transition to consolidation. The question is no longer about whether Tunisians are capable of establishing a democratic system but about their ability to sustain their nascent democracy. The fact that Tunisia was the starting point of the Arab Spring and the only country to succeed in democratising its political system raised a number of questions about the specificity of this experience. Among the possible answers is the political culture factor, which the author discusses with some historical evidence. The political culture argument helps in assessing the degree to which this unique experience can survive in an unfavourable environment. A number of indicators show that, after nine years of democratic learning and practicing, the so-called Tunisian exception is likely to continue. This paper tries to understand this challenging yet successful transition to the consolidation phase from a democratisation theory perspective.

Ezzeddine Abdelmoula is manager of research at Al Jazeera Centre for Studies. His research interest covers international politics and International theories, democratisation, political Islam, and media studies. He holds a PhD in politics from Exeter University and a Masters from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of london.

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01/01/20

Beyond greenwashing: Sustaining power through sustainability in the Arab Gulf monarchies

The advanced sustainable development agenda that is taking place in the oil-rich Arab Gulf monarchies is frequently described as a mere ‘greenwash’. From this perspective, the article argues that some Gulf monarchs have strategically exploited the ‘green niche’ in order to foster their grip on power. As ‘adaptable autocrats’ they benefit from the global trend on sustainability and have managed to adjust their policy accordingly.

Tobias Zumbrägel is a researcher at the Center for Applied Research in Partnership with the Orient (CARPO) (Germany) as well as PhD candidate at the Chair of Middle East Politics and Society at the Friedrich-Alexander-University of Erlangen-Nuremberg (Germany). He studied History, Political Science and Middle East Studies in Cologne, Tübingen (Germany) and Cairo (Egypt). Zumbrägel has conducted extensive field research in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait. His research focuses on questions of legitimacy, power and state authority in the Middle East with a special interest in environmentalism and digitalisation.

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01/01/20

Climate change and the water-energy nexus in the MENA region

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is home to some 500 million people and is characterised by strong environmental, economic, political and societal gradients. The region is expected to experience higher-than mean global changes in climatic conditions in the near future. Impacts of these changes will be particularly significant for water and energy security in many of the MENA countries. These impacts lead directly to significant issues of national and regional security. Addressing these challenges calls for integrated and holistic considerations and measures in the context of the water-energy nexus.

Manfred A. Lange is Professor and Founding Director of the Energy, Environment and water Research Center at the Cyprus Institute. He serves on the Steering Committee of the Mediterranean Experts on Climate and Environmental Change (MedECC) and is a member of the Facilitation Team for the Future Earth water-Energy-Food Nexus Knowledge Action Network (Nexus-KAN). His main research interests include the assessment of climate change impacts with a focus on water- and energy security, renewable energy sources and energy and water use efficiency in the built environment.

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