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Salam Fayyad and his exclusive election theory

January 25, 2014 at 3:20 am

We were afraid that the Palestinian leadership would neglect the right of Palestinians in the diaspora to elect their representatives to the Palestinian National Council. Now we are also afraid that the current leadership will even ignore the right of Palestinians inside Palestine to choose their president and representatives in the Legislative Council when elections eventually take place.

Statements by the Prime Minister of the longest-serving caretaker government in the world, Salam Fayyad, reveal what is going on in the minds of some Palestinian leaders. His thoughts can serve any goals and any group, except the goals of the Palestinian people in the restoration of unity, self-determination, nation-building and refugees’ return to their homeland.

Fayyad is using Hamas’s procrastination and its obstruction of the long-overdue elections, to call for polls to be held “with those who attend/those who can be present”. It is sufficient for Gaza to participate by nomination not election, but it is not important whether candidates are from Gaza or from anywhere else; what is important in his view is that the elections are held, to legitimise the Palestinian Authority with him in pole position as Prime Minister. The man understands that reconciliation and unity will mean the end of his government, a point he touched on very realistically in the Doha agreement. As such, he has apparently decided to consign reconciliation to the dustbin and promote elections from and for one side of the Palestinian national divide.

In previous statements, Fayyad said that Fatah does not want elections either. If neither Fatah nor Hamas want elections, and he is ready to exclude Gaza from the polls, then why doesn’t he go all the way and exclude the West Bank as well? If Israel refuses to allow elections to be held in occupied Jerusalem, would he exclude the Holy City and just hold elections for those in the vicinity of his office in Ramallah, and say that this represents the Palestinian people in the occupied territories and the diaspora? If we assume that Israel will block elections if Hamas participates in them, or Islamic Jihad or other groups, will he hold elections without them?It would provide a golden opportunity for his Third Way Party to lead the Palestinian people as their representative. So what is Salam Fayyad trying to say or do?

The silence emanating from Ramallah about Fayyad’s theory of elections for “those who attend/those who are present” is a cause for concern. What Fayyad says personally carries little weight, but his views have to be taken seriously if they reflect those of the Palestinian leadership.

We agree with Fayyad that Fatah and Hamas do not have sufficient interest in reconciliation, and perhaps there is no benefit for them to achieve it in the foreseeable future. In any case, the issue is meaningless if the intention is to institutionalise the division and thus give it some legitimacy. The actions of the leader of a caretaker government would then become more dangerous than the procrastination of Fatah and Hamas, and we would approach the red lines – if we have not already done so.

Elections in themselves have little or no value unless they lead to the renewal of Palestinian political action and a restoration of its unity as a foundation of the national project. Without such objectives, elections are merely decorative baubles to display for international donors and institutions.

These aspects of the Palestinian crisis are unfortunate. While Israel continues to take ever more land, destroy Palestinian rights and sanctities, and Judaise Jerusalem, we see the “brothers as enemies” throwing heavy accusations at each other and basing their decisions on regional and international developments, and not what is best for their own people.

We are fed up with the call for reconciliation and unity, having realised that it means little and having reached a point where a Palestinian Prime Minister appointed by external forces dares to introduce another divisive proposal. That can only serve to enforce national division and destroy any remaining glimmer of hope in restoring unity in the near future.

The author is a Jordanian writer. This article is a translation from the Arabic which appeared in Ad Dustour on 15 August

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.