Palestine: Bring on the elections

The real test of democracy is not the first election, it’s the second. The world must demand that the Palestinians get to vote again.

Abbas 521 (photo credit: Marc Israël Sellem )
Abbas 521
(photo credit: Marc Israël Sellem )
Democracy continues to be manifestly absent in the “State of Palestine" - while Israel's choice for its next prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, is engaged in the usual machinations involved in putting a coalition together to govern Israel for the next four years.
The 2003 Bush Roadmap For Peace – supposedly still the basis on which the long-stalled negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (extant since 3 January 2013) were being conducted – was uncompromising in its final destination: 
A two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will only be achieved through an end to violence and terrorism, when the Palestinian people have a leadership acting decisively against terror and willing and able to build a practicing democracy based on tolerance and liberty, and through Israel's readiness to do what is necessary for a democratic Palestinian state to be established, and a clear, unambiguous acceptance by both parties of the goal of a negotiated settlement.
Any attempt by the Palestinian people to have any say in electing a leadership that will act decisively against terror and ending violence and terrorism has been silenced since 25 January 2006, when their votes elected Hamas as winner of the elections with 74 seats to Fatah's 45 - providing Hamas with the majority of the 132 available seats and the ability to form a majority government of its own.
If the people wanted violence and terrorism to end, they chose the wrong horse. Now they have to live with that choice until they get another chance to change their minds. That is surely the essence of democracy - that there is an "out;" the ability of the people to regularly express their confidence (or otherwise) in the people they have elected.
However since 2006, the people have not been given such an opportunity.
The elected prime minister, Ismail Haniyyeh, was unceremoniously dumped by PA President Mahmoud Abbas on 15 June 2007 on the grounds of a "national emergency."
This resulted in bitter internecine strife between Hamas and Fatah that has seen the human rights of hundreds of thousands of the electorate abused in an orgy of violence, killing and detention sans trial.
Frequent attempts to effect a reconciliation between the two groups have failed since both pursue very different political goals and objectives. It is up to the people to be the circuit breakers in this long running dispute; however, all evidence points to the sad reality that the people will not be allowed to have their say. Meanwhile, with a term that expired on 9 January 2009, Abbas continues to hold onto the reins of power as unelected and unconstitutional president. The second deadline also came and went after Abbas unilaterally extended his term for yet another year.
Hamas reacted by announcing that it would not recognize Abbas as the Palestinians’ rightful president. Yet in the international arena, Abbas still enjoys full presidential treatment. 
Following Abbas's election on 9 January 2005, David Carroll, acting director of the Democracy Program and an active member of the Carter Center –the NDI observer delegation to that election—discussed the outcome of the election process and the wider implications for peace.
Asked about the implications that the election had for democracy in the region, Carroll responded thus: 
Many people see the Jan. 9 presidential election as an opportunity for a new leader to recommit to the peace process and make real progress in negotiations with Israel. In addition, however, the election sets an important example for the Arab world; it shows Arab peoples and leaders that citizens' yearnings for democracy can and should be met, and that democratic renewal strengthens political legitimacy. Further, like the recent elections in Indonesia, the Palestinian election is a reminder that Islam and democracy are not incompatible.
If events of the past few years in Yemen, Libya, Egypt and Syria are indicators, then Carroll may indeed have been proven right. However, the real test of democracy is not the first election, it’s the second.
Sadly, any moves that foster democracy continue to be denied in the crucial areas where it is essential they be allowed, namely, the West Bank and Gaza. While this sorry state of affairs continues, the following words of the Bush Road Map remain meaningless:
A settlement, negotiated between the parties, will result in the emergence of an independent, democratic, and viable Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with Israel and its other neighbors.
Those non-democratic states supporting a fictitious "State of Palestine," headed by an unconstitutional president, an unelected government with an unelected prime minister and a press that is anything but free, will certainly be unable to grasp the importance of elections to allow the people to have their say after seven years of enforced silence.
But the rest of the world's genuine democracies should know better. As such, "bring on the elections" should be their unified and rallying demand.
Jews and Arabs will continue to bear the scars of war and conflict for as long as the acquiescing sound of silence continues.