Elections play a pivotal role in fostering participation, accountability,
and transparency, those qualities of good governance that the United Nations
Development Program wishes to encourage. Regularly held elections can be the principal
means by which a significant part of society participates and interacts with the
government. This is especially true in states with larger populations or where direct
interactions between the leaders and the citizenry are not logistically feasible.
In addition, elections may serve as a mechanism of accountability, ensuring that
government actions resonate with the wishes of the governed. Publicly contested
campaigns may elicit greater transparency in government policies and practices.
Virtually all of the Arab countries hold regular elections, institutionalized in
their constitutions or other official documents of the government. The country articles
describe the electoral system, the rules and laws governing elections, the settlement
of disputes arising from electoral contests, the laws governing parties and political
associations, and a brief summary of the results of the most recent presidential
and legislative elections.
The choice of electoral system and the design of elections can play a decisive role
in election outcomes. Two basic electoral systems are the winner-take-all or majoritarian
system, and the proportional representation (PR) system. Under the rules of the
basic winner-take-all system, elections are held in single-member districts and
the candidate receiving the most votes, although not necessarily a majority, wins
the contest. In another variant of the winner-take-all system - one that exists
in some Arab countries for presidential elections - if no candidate receives an
absolute majority of the votes in the first round of voting, a second round of voting
takes place between the candidates receiving the two highest vote shares. This method
ensures that the winner of a contest is always elected by a majority of the voters.
The benefits of the winner-take-all system are the relative simplicity and clarity
of its rules, both for the institutions that oversee and manage elections and for
the voters participating in them.
Under the PR system, elections are held in multi-member constituencies and voters
either cast one or multiple votes for candidates. Constituencies may have as few
as two members. There are multiple variants of PR, including the open and closed
party-list system, the cumulative voting system, and the single-transfer voting
system. In many countries, there is also a minimum threshold requirement for parties
to win seats. The principal benefit of the proportional representation system is
the greater access it provides for small or minority parties. It can also eliminate
the need for multiple rounds of voting, as sometimes occur in the winner-take-all
A semi-proportional system mixes elements of these two basic electoral systems.
For example, a state with a bicameral parliament may choose a winner-take-all system
for elections to the lower body and a variant of the proportional representation
for elections to the upper body.
Where the information is obtainable, the articles provide a brief discussion of
the government institution or authority responsible for conducting the election
process, and the court or tribunal responsible for adjudicating in the event of
electoral disputes.. In most states of the Arab region, responsibility for elections
is assigned to the executive branch, usually the Ministry of Interior. In some states
a specialized court, such as a constitutional court, performs the task of settling
The articles also provide information about the laws governing political parties
and the manner in which political parties obtain licenses from the government. In
some states there is a specialized committee charged with this task. Finally, the
articles provide information about the most recently held elections in each state.
Statistics about voter turnout and vote shares are obtained from government sources
or culled from United Nations, United Nations Development Program, and Inter-Parliamentary
Union websites. When available, links to texts of relevant laws, constitutions,
governmental institution websites, and political party websites have been provided.
Readers requiring more information about elections at the sub-national levels are
advised to consult the Decentralization articles also found in POGAR.