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The upcoming Iraqi parliamentary election slated for May 12 is significant for many reasons, most notable are the changes to Iraq’s traditional electoral lists. Although these lists are still largely composed along ethno-sectarian lines—whether Shia, Sunni, or Kurdish—differences over policies figure more prominently, with a shift away from an exclusive focus on identity present in previous elections. This change offers the United States a significant opportunity to play an engaged role in post-election negotiations, and to serve as a counterweight to Iranian influence in the country.

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Iraqis will go to the polls for the first time in four years on May 12. The vote will determine Iraq’s next prime minister at a critical time for the country as it emerges from a three-year war with the Islamic State (ISIS).

Will the significant shifts in electoral lists bring about change for the country? Four experts share their views.

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Iraqi citizens will vote in their fourth parliamentary election on May 12th, 2018, since the 2003 US invasion to remove Saddam Hussein from power. There is an increase of cross-sectarian and pro-reform parties this election. Experts predict this will prevent a single coalition from winning an outright majority in parliament, and that alliances will likely be formed after elections in order to gain a majority and elect a prime minister.

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In the ongoing effort by international and domestic actors to solve the political deadlock in Libya, the spotlight is on UN Special Envoy Ghassan Salame. Since the second anniversary of the signing of the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA) in the Moroccan city of Skhirat in December 2015, Salame’s well-thought and defined Action Plan for Libya has morphed into a confused and mainly reactive approach. When discussing his plan with media, Salame oscillates between three different priorities: securing a deal between Libya’s two rival governments to modify the LPA; holding a National Conference as early as June; holding legislative and presidential elections by the end of the year.

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Tunisians will go to the polls to vote in the country’s first municipal elections on May 6. The vote is an important milestone in the country’s democratic transition and decentralization process; which aims to bridge the gap between the central government in Tunis and the Tunisian people.

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An international fundraising conference for Yemen took place at the United Nations (UN) offices Geneva in early April. Co-chaired by Sweden, Switzerland, and the UN, the conference succeeded in securing humanitarian funding worth over $2 billion, doubling the previous year’s pledges of $1.1 billion. Despite optimism that the donations represent a “success of international solidarity to the people of Yemen,” as stated by UN Secretary-General António Guterres in his closing statement, the current humanitarian response presents more problems than solutions.

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Iraq’s 2018 parliamentary elections, simultaneously embodying continuity and change, will be held in a particularly divisive atmosphere. The elections are taking place in the shadow of the devastation left behind by the conflict with ISIS and serious splits within the governing Shia party. As a result, voting on May 12 will be a litmus test for the mood of the country in the wake of a tumultuous few years.

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Libya was thrown into further flux this past week amid reports of the death of Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar. His exact condition remains unclear; Haftar was reportedly hospitalized in Jordan after suffering a stroke before falling into a coma after his transfer to a hospital in France. Other sources reported that eastern strongman passed away while in Paris. Reports of his death, while unconfirmed, will significantly impact the calculus of Libya’s major players, both domestically and regionally. Haftar’s death could serve as an opportunity to revive political dialogue, but it could also trigger an escalated conflict between Libya’s competing factions that would further fragment the country.  

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In August 2013, then Turkish Prime Minister Recep, Tayyip Erdogan, told reporters that a coalition of states should force Syria’s Bashar al-Assad from power, following the regime’s use of chemical weapons in Eastern Ghouta. At a reception in Istanbul, Erdogan was clear, saying reprisal strikes “can’t be a 24 hours hit-and-run …What matters is stopping the bloodshed in Syria and weakening the regime to the point where it gives up.” To do so, he proposed “something like the example of Kosovo,” where the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) engaged in a 78-day air war to “compel the president of Yugoslavia, Slobodan Milosevic, to end his campaign of ethnic cleansing in Kosovo.”

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The situation in North Africa is developing in unexpected directions. Challenged by the Libyan crisis and the consequent threats that derive from its instability—continuing violence, expanding terrorism, and flourishing organized crime—it could be reasonably expected that a more assertive cooperation would incur among the North African countries. However, this is hardly the case: Tunisia is embroiled in a difficult economic and political moment with strikes and protests in many parts of the country, and Algeria and Morocco are facing their own developing crisis while Libya is slowly collapsing into a state of semi-anarchy.

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