It’s election season in the Middle East. The fact that few seem to care about the outcome of these votes shows just how much authoritarian restoration and sectarian conflict transformed the region after the 2011 Arab Spring briefly stoked its peoples’ democratic hopes.
The Arab world's most populous country - Egypt - is holding a presidential election this month. Lebanon will pick a new parliament and government on May 6, its first national election in nearly a decade. A week later, Iraqis will go to the polls for the first time since Islamic State's spread and defeat upended the country's politics.
In none of these cases is the direction of the countries holding the vote likely to change significantly - either because the elections themselves have turned into a meaningless ritual (as in Egypt), or because the fractured nature of societies and the power of armed militias make electoral results secondary to dealmaking among sectarian and political factions (as in Lebanon and Iraq).