Palestinian Vote Offers Small Dose of Democracy

Fatah Dominates, With Some Choices, in Local Elections

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By Reuters

Published October 21, 2012.
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The mood at efficient and well-policed voting stations in schools and public buildings throughout the West Bank was subdued. Palestinians expressed melancholy at their divisions and the seeming permanence of Israel’s 45-year-old occupation.

Cars decked with Fatah and Palestinian flags blaring nationalist anthems made noisy rounds among Bethlehem’s polling centres, and candidates hoping to win last-minute support greeted and chatted with voters.

“I heard that the Fatah bloc was made up of good people, so I voted for them,” said Amani, 29, who declined to give her last name, drying with tissue her index finger dipped in the indelible purple ink of the voting stations.

“I think in the end all parties have their own political and financial interest in mind. But it is my duty to vote, and so I can say that I’ve done my part,” she said.

EARLY TO DEMOCRACY

Palestinian Authority President and Fatah chief Mahmoud Abbas emphasized a legacy of democracy as he voted in downtown Ramallah, his capital while Israel denies Palestinian government a seat in the contested holy city of Jerusalem.

“We hope we will be regarded by our brothers in Gaza and everywhere in the Arab world as the ones who first embarked upon democracy, and we continue on this path and we hope everyone will follow us,” he told journalists.

Palestinians first held parliamentary elections in 1995, rare among Arab countries at the time and a positive step after the interim Oslo peace accords with Israel the previous year, which have long lapsed and become an albatross for the same, sclerotic Palestinian leadership of the present day.

The Authority faces deepening challenges to its legitimacy. An addiction to foreign economic aid has opened up a financial crisis that exploded into street protests in cities up and down the West Bank last month.

Years of imprisonment and marginalisation of Hamas activists in the West Bank have deepened Fatah’s near monopoly on power in self-ruled West Bank enclaves.

An aggressive campaign to root out corrupt and insubordinate security officers within Fatah’s own cadres this year has further narrowed the ruling clique.

But as economic problems worsen amid the standstill of Palestinians’ broader political landscape, many hail the vote as an opportunity to renew institutions and focus on development at the grassroots level.

“Of course, there are positive signs in these elections,” the Palestinian al-Quds newspaper wrote in an editorial. “The local authorities have an important role in public services and providing an administration for citizens.”


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