Saturday, February 12, 2011

Fatah Calls for Elections

President Abbas has called for elections in the near term. Palestinians will have a chance at a democratically controlled future again, if Hamas lets them. The PLO controls the West Bank while Hamas retains power in the Gaza Strip.

Of course, Hamas faces the Sadrite conundrum in the upcoming balloting: if you boycott the election, you lose. Hamas did pretty well in the local elections of 2006, giving them a legitimate power base from which to seize Gaza and delve the territories into a civil war. Hamas, if it performs public polling (unlikely), might have discovered it has something to fear in upcoming elections. More simply, elections introduce the possibility of a loss for Hamas, and why take the risk when no other force can dislodge them from leadership of Palestine's most densely populated territory?

By attempting to capture the democratic spirit and place Hamas on the authoritarian side of the ledger, Abbas is showing a modicum of shrewdness. On the other hand, the recent embarrassing disclosures about negotiations with Israel (i.e. the PLO is attempting to negotiate even as Israel isn't doing much to reciprocate) could make Fatah unpopular. I haven't seen much reporting about Palestinian politics recently; no youth movement seems to be springing up, so the cast of characters remains the not-Hamas Fatah vs Hamas to any unversed American observer. So far, there have merely been reports that Palestinians in the West Bank cheered the victory of the Egyptian Tahrir movement. That is a far cry from developing the mobilizing capability required to dislodge the autocratic players.

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