Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Democracy in Arab World

Tomorrow is election day in Palestine, and so far everything seems to be running smoothly in spite of all of the difficulties caused by the fact that the country is under Israeli occupation.

I think it is worth noting that what we are seeing - and have been seeing since the death of Arafat - in Palestine is without parallel in the Arab world in terms of free and fair elections and an evolving pluralist democratic systems.

Tomorrow will of course be of particular importance in view of the decision by Hamas to take part. Having previously refused to have anything with a democratic political process to do, they are now for the first time testing their strength in a democratic contest.

That's of course positive.

Once upon a time, the ruling Fatah party of today was seen by the outside world - rightly, by the way - as a terrorist organisation. There was no doubt that violence and terror was part of its arsenal.

But those days are effectively gone.

Now the major question is what support the Hamas alternative really has - and long term whether they over time can develop in some sort of direction similar to what Fatah has done.

It's been a sunny and lovely day in Jerusalem and the West Bank today.

Let's hope for a good day for democracy tomorrow. In Palestine - and with a signal to the entire Arab world.

Central Elections Commission