Palestinian election is stuck on so many 'ifs'

 Many Palestinian intellectuals and political analysts are in a dilemma. They do not know whether to support or reject the forthcoming Palestinian election. Voting for this election is scheduled for May 22 and July 30.

 Although the election is not far away, there is no answer to this question. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas issued a long-awaited decree in January stating that Palestinian legislative and presidential elections would be held in the next few months. 

His announcement has been congratulated by all. This congratulation is not only a victory for democracy but also a visible positive benefit of the dialogue between the various Palestinian conflicting parties - mainly Fatah and Hamas.

Considering the Palestinian internal dialogue, if these two elections can be held without hindrance, a ray of hope can be expected: in the end, Palestinians will have the opportunity to have at least some degree of democratic representation in the occupied Palestinian territories. 

And it will be the first step towards the inclusion of millions more Palestinians outside the Occupied Palestinian Territories in the process of comprehensive democratic representation. 

But even if the various Palestinian factions go ahead with such humble expectations by the Istanbul Agreement of September 24 last year, there are still many "ifs" behind it. 

This expectation can only be met: if Israel allows the Palestinians, including the Jerusalemites, to make this choice without hindrance; If Israel does not obstruct voting; If candidates refrain from being arrested; If, above all, the US-led international community unquestionably accepts the outcome of this election; If the winning party and candidates do not take any action to punish; If there is no foreign interference in this election. 

Apart from this, after the legislative and presidential elections, the expatriate Palestinian parliament, the Palestinian National Council (PNC) and other such significant elections were held as usual.

If these ‘if' circumstances are not satisfactory. However, the upcoming Palestinian elections will not succeed in achieving any real goal. 

Outside of this election, it will give a shallow coating of legitimacy to Mahmoud Abbas and his opponents. This will give them more time to get more funding from financial beneficiaries.

 With all this, everyone will be forced to raise a question: is it possible to establish democracy in Palestine by maintaining a military occupation?

The last democratic elections in the Palestinian legislature were held in 2006. The result of that election did not satisfy Israel. 

Israel sends 62 Palestinian ministers and members of parliament to prison Many of them are still in jail. Now history is starting to repeat itself. 

Israel has already launched a crackdown on Hamas members and leaders in the West Bank. More than 20 Palestinian activists, including Hamas officials, were detained on February 22. 

This sends a clear message: Israel will not accept the Palestinian dialogue in occupied Palestine. The country will not obey their unity agreement or their democracy. 

Two days later, Israeli military intelligence in the occupied West Bank issued a summons to sixty-seven-year-old Hamas leader Omar Barghouti. 

He was warned not to run in the upcoming elections. "Israeli officials have refused to allow me to run for office," he told Al-Monitor.

Palestinian fundamental law also allows a prisoner to run in an election, whether legislative or presidential. Many Palestinian leaders are imprisoned today just because of their popularity in Palestine. 

Marwan Barghouti is such a leader. He has been in jail since 2002. Barghouti was a very popular leader of the Fatah group. As a young man, he was a Fatah youth leader as opposed to Abbas's Old Guard.

 Abbas's group has benefited itself by building various corruption systems. Besides, it received political patronage. That is why Abbas, now 85, is the current president of the Palestinian Authority. 

Abbas and his associates are working to keep Barghouti on the sidelines to fix this corruption. This influential Fatah leader is being held in Israeli jails to protect the interests of President Abbas. 

There are many grounds for this allegation. Abbas did not put the slightest pressure on Israel to release Barghouti. But according to all possible reliable surveys, Barghouti is more popular than Abbas among Fatah supporters and virtually all Palestinians.

On February 11, Mahmoud Abbas sent his Civil Affairs Minister Hussein al-Sheikh and a member of Fatah's Central Committee to persuade him to abstain from running in the next presidential election. 

It would be good for Mahmoud Abbas if Barghouti could be included in Fatah's list of contestants in the PNC election. In that case, Mahmoud Abbas will be able to get elected with a significant margin of support for Fatah. This will ensure his presidency. 

But Barghouti rejected Mahmoud Abbas's offer. With this, he threw this unwelcome challenge against Abbas. This could lead to a split in Fatah and Abbas is afraid of the defeat in the parliamentary election to Hamas and the presidential election to Barghouti.

The Israeli military carried out attacks and destruction at night and divided even if elections are held under the circumstances of Hamas, it will ultimately give the Palestinians an opportunity to build a united front. This front will work to lead the movement to end the Israeli occupation and build an independent Palestinian state.

Despite all this, will this election bring any momentum to Palestinian democracy? Abbas's mandate as president expired in 2009.

 PNC expired in 2010. The Palestinian Authority was formed as an interim political committee. Its activities were supposed to end in 1999. Since then, the Palestinian leadership has been running without a mandate from the Palestinian people. 

This leadership continues without the relevance of the Palestinians, with the support of its beneficiaries. And these benefactors are seldom interested in supporting Palestinian democracy.

The only glimmer of hope is that Fatah and Hamas have agreed to bring the PLO under a new structure, which is now exclusively under Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah movement. Whether or not this democratic restructuring of the PLO will take place depends largely on the outcome of the upcoming May and July elections.

Palestine, like other countries in the Middle East, including Israel, has a crisis of political legitimacy. Since Palestine is an occupied territory with little independence or complete subjugation, likely, democracy will not be possible in the country in this dire situation.

That's right, many foreigners want to influence or interfere in the Palestinian election. The issue has raised concerns among Palestinian leaders. 

Fatah Central Committee General Secretary May. J. Jibril Bajob said on Palestinian TV on February 17 that some Arab countries were continuing to try to interfere in the Palestinian elections and the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation dialogue.

 Three days later, Bassam al-Salhi, secretary-general of the Palestinian People's Party and a member of the PLO's executive committee, said in an interview on the Arab 21 website: "Many countries will spend a lot of money on Palestinian elections. Because they want to influence the Legislative Council. We will resist the efforts of many Arab and non-Arab countries.'

Although Palestinian officials have not named these countries, the potential ones are Egypt, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates. These countries have interests in this election.

It is no secret that President Abbas's call for elections depends on his will or the wishes of the Arab world. Rather, it came under pressure from the United States and the EU.

 The EU has threatened to cut off funding to Ramallah if the election is called off. Both Brussels and Washington want the Palestinian Authority to restore its legitimacy before any further agreement can be reached.

 The election has the support of two other important countries: Turkey and Qatar. However, some Arab countries, especially Egypt and Jordan, are not happy with the announcement of the election. 

These two countries fear that the 2008 elections will be repeated. Hamas then won a decisive victory in the Gaza Strip. This led to an armed conflict between Hamas and Fatah. 

If this happens again, it will create a devastating situation in Egyptian and Jordanian internal affairs. The Egyptian government sees Hamas in particular as a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. 

The Egyptian government has been trying since 2013 to eradicate the Brotherhood from the country.

Egypt fears Hamas victory could put additional pressure on the Egyptian government. Without it, the Brotherhood in Egypt could become stronger. 

The Jordanian government also fears a stronger Hamas. Apart from that, the country is also worried about any post-election instability. Because there is a huge number of Palestinians in the country.

The United Arab Emirates is also deeply interested in the Palestinian election. The country has taken the lead in normalizing Arab relations with Israel. 

The country wants to further consolidate relations with the United States and Israel. Israel is also unhappy with the announcement of the new Palestinian elections.

Although Israel has gifted its citizens four elections in the last two years, it is more reluctant to hold any elections in Palestine. Because Israel wants to maintain stability in Palestine. 

Israel wants Mahmoud Abbas to remain in power and to continue cooperating with Israel's security services. This will allow Israel to continue its occupying and racist expansion freely. Israel wants Fatah to win the next election. That is why Israel has begun arresting Hamas leaders in the West Bank.

There is diplomatic pressure in this election. The matter first became clear on 17 January. Egyptian and Jordanian intelligence chiefs Abbas Kamel and Ahmed Hosni visited Ramallah 48 hours after Abbas's election decree was issued. 

According to a source, the two discussed the election process in detail with Mahmoud Abbas. Their discussions also included the Fatah situation.

 At present, there is no political consensus within Fatah on this election question. This disunity is a challenge for Mahmoud Abbas. There is growing support for Marwan Barghouti's candidacy for the presidency.

The Fatah leader has been sentenced to life in prison in Israel. Moreover, there is no consensus among Fatah on his candidacy for the Legislative Council. 

Now a list of different candidates is being drawn up: one by Mahmoud Abbas's close associates, another by Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's nephew Nasser al-Khudwa, and another list is compiled by former security chief Mohammad Dahlan, who was expelled from Fatah in 2011. In the run-up to the election, Fatah's internal divisions will surely benefit Hamas.

Considering the issue, Egypt and Jordan want Fatah to make a unified list in the upcoming elections. For this, the two countries are putting pressure on Mahmud to reach an agreement with Dahlan and bring him back to the party.

 Fatah's function was closely related to the United Arab Emirates. According to some observers, Abu Dhabi considers Dahlan to be the future leader of the Palestinian Authority. The issue has raised suspicions for Mahmoud Abbas. 

For this, he does not want Dahlan to come back to the team again. Dahlan's supporters have publicly stated that they are receiving political, media and financial support from the UAE. With this help, they are also succeeding in gaining the support of the Palestinian political forces.

 Hamas has opposed the Dahlan group's return to politics in the Gaza Strip because of its role in the 2007 armed conflict. In the end, under pressure from Egypt, Hamas agreed. 

Dahlan then launched several humanitarian projects for the Palestinians. This includes the distribution of the Covid-19 vaccine without coordination with the Palestinian Authority. 

The main goal of all this was to build new Palestinian leadership. All in all, the success of the next Palestinian election is uncertain due to these so many 'ifs'.

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