Friday, January 07, 2005

Palestinian Elections

Khaled Duzdar is the Palestinian Co-Director of IPCRI – Israel/Palestine Center for Research and information. tlls Israeli, American, and Palestinian critics to give Abu Mazen a Chance

A new Palestinian leadership is about to be democratically elected. The public legitimacy in the eyes of the people of the coming leadership’s competence is the key for Abu Mazen to be able to address the main issues that concern the public. For this there must be very high voter turnout. He must be able to claim a full mandate of the people for his policies and for the national agenda that he has presented. The Palestinians should not by their own choice not participate and by doing so relinquish the hopes for a better future. We Palestinians should all participate in the democratic process, this is not only our right, it is our obligation!

[snip]

Abu Mazen has stated several times his intentions to stop violence and to put an end to it. He has consistently for the past four years criticized the militarization of the Intifada. He has also stated that negotiations are the best way to reach peace and he called all parties involved to implement the Road Map. He has declared that the main policy directive for his government will be the full implementation of the Road Map. Abu Mazen is supporting the Palestinian peoples’ will for democracy. He wants to rebuild Palestinian institutions and to provide Palestinians with real security. Abu Mazen is the only leader who has called to stop the Qassams, and this call to put an end to the Qassams echoes as a collective call of the Palestinian people. He is the leader that might achieve the Palestinian aspirations. For that we should all give the man a chance.

Abu Mazen is not just running for a position and for having authority. He holds in his hands a new Palestinian National Agenda. He is not running as the successor of late Abu Amar, but as someone who is presenting a new Palestinian national agenda emphasizing the Palestinian aspiration for sovereignty and freedom based on the legitimate rights of the Palestinians and emphasizing the belief that the way to achieve those rights is at the negotiations table. For that too we should give the man a chance.

One Voice works to turn out votes

One of the prominent foreign organizations supporting Abu Mazen is the Palestinian branch of the One Voice organization. One Voice, funded by American contributions, is engaged in a widespread public relations campaign throughout the Palestinian territories bearing the slogan, "Raise your voice and take part in your destiny."

One activist says that increased activity in the run-up to the elections is now palpable in major Palestinian cities. "There are giant posters with pictures of both main candidates, Abu Mazen and Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, and there are conferences and marches. But in the periphery, there is almost no activity. The streets are dead and the residents follow the election campaign only on the pages of newspapers and in local television ads," he says.

In an attempt to jack up voter participation, One Voice enlisted an appearance by actor Richard Gere in a television ad calling voters to the polls. The German Konrad Adenauer Foundation has also invested large sums to bankroll newspaper ads calling voters to the polls. Paltel, Palestine's largest Bezeq-equivalent communications company, did the same.
That part about Richard Gere seemd not merely strange, but bizarre until I checked out the One Voice blog
The first-ever Get-Out-The-Vote Campaign in the Palestinian Authority, conducted by OneVoice-Palestine, is about to release a Public Service Announcement that will turn heads: it juxtaposes Sheikh Taysir al Tamimi, the Chief Palestinian Islamic Justice, and Father Attallah Hanna, the Patriarchite of the Greek Orthodox Church in Jerusalem, with Richard Gere, the film star and humanitarian. They all encourage the Palestinian people to go out and vote. Sheikh Tamimi calls it a "religious and a national commandment" to participate in the elections.
The announcment (with subtitles) can be viewed online.

The Other Candidates
Mustafa Barghouti, a distant cousin of the imprisoned Marwan Barghouti, is the most popular among the non-frontrunner candidates. Polls have him enjoying the support of between 10% and 20% of Palestinian Arabs. Mr. Barghouti is a physician and a former communist. He is the founder and head of the Medical Relief Center in Ramallah. He is the Palestinian Arab point man for the American-based, radically anti-Israel International Solidarity Movement, and has led most of the Palestinian Arab demonstrations against Israel's security fence in the West Bank.

--Caroline Glick, "Palestinian Arab Also-Rans Fight Uphill Battle on Campaign Trail" New York Sun
In the not-too-distant past, before the intifada, Dr. Barghouti was a left-wing activist with many Israeli friends, but he has adopted a harder line in recent years. He has aligned himself with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine during his election campaign, and often supports a position of total rejectionism....

Dr. Barghouti's position of rejection regarding Oslo and the road map actually approaches that of the Hamas platform, and there are rumors in the territories that Hamas is secretly directing its constituents to vote for Barghouti. These rumors caused Hamas's Gaza spokesman Sami Abu-Zahri to adamantly restate the movement's position, which rejects any participation in the elections.

-- Danny Rubinstein, "Yet to be elected, but already initiating a political process," Haaretz January 5, 2005

Bassam Salhi, one of the signers of the Geneva Accord, will be the standard-bearer of the Palestinian People's Party, one of the oldest currently existing Palestinian political institutions. The PPP was an outgrowth of the Palestine Communist Party during the Mandatory era, and was one of the few Palestinian Arab factions to support partition in 1947. The PPP, and Salhi, are regarded as pro-Oslo, and Salhi has spoken in support of a campaign of nonviolent resistance against the Israeli occupation. Salhi is probably the most ideologically flexible of the candidates with respect to formulating a two-state solution, although others with a wider political base might be more conciliatory in practical terms.
[PPP website: Warning: Most pages are in Arabic and the English color seheme qualifies for "webpages that suck."]
--Jonathon Edelstein, The Head Heeb blog

[Another leftist candidate] represent[s] the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), a hard-line Marxist-Leninist organization that holds positions more commonly associated with the nationalist left. The DFLP's candidate is Taysir Khaled, a "Tunisian" and a longtime leader of the movement. By all accounts, he lives up to the DFLP's doctrinaire reputation.
--Jonathon Edelstein, The Head Heeb
On Monday Al-Salhi attacked Barghouti, demanding that the PA Central Election Committee investigate Barghouti's funding sources. He also demanded that the campaign include televised debates "so the voter can make a rational decision."

There are three Islamicist candidates Dr. Abd Al Karim Shbair, Dr. Abd Al Halim Al-Ashqar, Sayyed Hussein Barakeh. But they are un-official, shadow candidates.

Hamas is calling for an election boycott. They've been pulling down posters of the candidates, replacing them with the image of a Hamas terrorist leader killed by the Israel nine years ago this week. Steve Erlanger, observes in the New York Times
the poll is nearly as big a test for Hamas as for those actually running. For several years, its popularity was on the rise. But now, after four years of violence and the death of Mr. Arafat, Hamas is struggling against a shift in political sentiment toward the mainstream and a new possibility for improved relations with Israel.
Yossie Bellin, leader of the social democratic Yachad Party and promoter of the Geneva Accord, on what's at stake after the election
In the near future, Abu Mazen will be walking this tightrope between the attempt to reach an agreement that will not be too costly from his standpoint and a violent struggle. He will also be seeking to burnish his credentials as a fighter for his people, and seeking to allay fears among Palestinians that he is, perhaps, too moderate to do the job.

This is why the outside powers have such an important role. The more the Palestinians believe that during times of peace they enjoy a better life, their economy develops and they have something to lose, the more they will realize that the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza and the dismantling of the Israeli settlements there are only the beginning of a process that will culminate in a permanent status agreement — and a Palestinian state — in line with the Clinton Plan, George W. Bush's vision and the Geneva Accord.

For this to happen, the Bush administration and the Sharon government will both have to make great efforts to assist the pragmatists within the Palestinian Authority.

If they confine their role to standing on the sidelines, the historical revolution that has taken place on the Palestinian side will generate nothing. There will be a brief period of international applause for the Palestinians for setting a nice, democratic example and for electing a prudent and responsible leader. And then, unfortunately, the process will be toppled by the extremists, the fanatics, the vengeful and the violent.


Other Resources

Palestinian Election Commission
Candidate bios from the PEC

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