Friday, January 20, 2006

A Very Real Election

When Palestine went to the polls a year ago to elect a new president after Yaser Arafat it was in reality more a coronation than an election. The outcome was never really in doubt - there were no real contenders.

When they will now go to vote for the Palestine Legislative Council on January 25 it's a very different story.

This is a very real election in every sense of the word. It's democracy in action - although not everyone in the action can necessarily be classified as a democrat.

Opinion polls are now predicting a very close race between the Fatah party that now dominates everything - the rather corrupt and inefficient lot being part of old PLO - and the more efficient but terrorist-inclined Islamist Hamas party.

I can well foresee that emotions will run very high around Palestine as the campaign is reaching its crescendo. In Gaza, violence does not seem to be far below the surface.

This makes it even more important that the elections is conducted in an orderly and impartial way. This is necessary if the result shall be accepted by everyone, and confrontation and perhaps even violence avoided.

To the outside world this might be seen as a choice being a moderate line inclined to negotiate with Israel and a confrontational line not shying away from using terrorism.

There is undoubtedly an element of that. But based on my discussions around the West Bank last year, it seen by many there also as a choice between the corrupt and the honest.

Many are fed-up after years of Fatah - although in many cases also fearing the Islamist agenda of Hamas.

It will be a very real election of very real importance for Palestine and the entire Middle East.

Haaretz - Israel News