Palestinian leaders are not ready for meaningful elections

Those around Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas are doing the same thing to him as those around former Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.
Sunday 08/12/2019
Dual problem. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (3rd R) meets with the Palestinian Central Election Committee Chairman Hanna Nasser (3rd L) , in Ramallah, last October.  (DPA)
Dual problem. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (3rd R) meets with the Palestinian Central Election Committee Chairman Hanna Nasser (3rd L) , in Ramallah, last October. (DPA)

Palestinians are discussing the issue of general legislative and presidential elections.

Among the most important questions are: How can the Palestinian system overcome obstacles it created for itself? What tasks would the winners of the elections undertake? What would the losers do given the de facto hegemony of the two parties to the Palestinian rivalry in their respective geographical areas?

The two Palestinian rival camps are exercising some administrative control over two Palestinian communities in occupied or besieged territories while three other Palestinian communities are outside the electoral map.

One of those communities was forcibly integrated into the Israeli electoral map. The second is in Jerusalem and its participation in elections will be subject to Israeli approval and conditions. The third community is the diaspora.

However, the obstacles created by the Palestinian government for itself are the root of this impasse.

The small and shrinking geographical area provided by the Oslo Declaration of Principles was divided into two authorities and those two authorities failed to restore the unity of the Palestinian regime. Even after the failure of their respective methods, both authorities became more stubborn and national functions were fractured and ineffective.

One of the parties to the rivalry boasts about its protocol powers and whatever is left of its international contacts. The other boasts about its armed forces that guarantee its control over its isolated patch.

Neither party wishes to restore constitutional institutions and the law and abandon the power of coercion. They’re more interested in acquiring full political and security powers within tiny enclaves surrounded by an aggressive occupation.

The dominant actors in the decision-making circle of each party are keen to maintain their power and influence, despite the failures and tribulations they caused themselves and the Palestinian cause.

For each side of the rivalry, the debate involves coming up with arguments that refute the legitimacy of the other party and question its competence.

No two Palestinians would disagree that the political class is cut off from reality. This political class must focus on a single national strategy of action rather than running after the trappings of power and competing for privileges in a dreary and sterile reality.

Unfortunately, neither party is qualified for such a dialogue and yet each side is claiming it is ready for elections, elections they’d rather not have, just as they do not want to admit reality.

Each side adheres to its arrogance and illusions and bets on its one single achievement — turning society away from politics and preventing the formation of any other political class.

Each side has killed off or domesticated all civil society institutions by either concocting corruption cases against the latter’s leading and popular figures or by helping them financially as a type of investment in them.

This disaster is caused by the logic of personal gain in politics in both camps. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas acts in contradiction with the logic of searching for comprehensive and enduring solutions.  Hamas abides by the logic of power seized through security and military force and buttressed by an emotional discourse loaded with illusions.  Both tracks lead the Palestinian people to a dead end.

There are no signs that the most senior Palestinian official — Abbas — intends to start a serious and responsible national dialogue that would allow the Palestine Liberation Organisation to regain its role as the comprehensive representative of the Palestinian people and of their interests.

What is happening in the Palestinian Authority is akin to political suicide. Those around Abbas are doing the same thing as those around former Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika did.

Abbas’s political history is nowhere near Bouteflika’s history and career and yet the latter ended his political life in disgrace. Abbas should know he is risking a worse fate as his inner circle of advisers pushes him to seek another presidential term at the age of 84.

Everybody knows their goal is to effectively rule in his name and none of them can even boast of having a record of exploits as illustrious as those of the figures who surrounded the Algerian president, who was toppled by the street.

The Palestinian situation is very precarious and there is not a single glimmer of hope on the horizon.

The Palestinian political class has chosen to go against the facts and declared its readiness to enter the fray of elections with no constitutional basis. They are taking a leap into the unknown because they found no other way out of the internal impasse.