Egypt: Hamas win a demand for change

PM Ahmed Nazif says results reflect desire for improved social conditions.

egypt pm 88 (photo credit: )
egypt pm 88
(photo credit: )
Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif said Friday night the overwhelming vote for Hamas was a demand for change by the Palestinian people who want jobs, services, and a better life. British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said Hamas now must demonstrate that "the transfer of power from elite to street" produces real democracy for the Palestinians. Nazif and Straw spoke before an off-the-record dinner on Middle East issues at the World Economic Forum, a sellout event following Hamas' trouncing of the ruling Fatah party in Wednesday's legislative elections in the Palestinian territories. The Egyptian minister spoke about the Hamas victory in a broader context, stressing that change is inevitable in the Middle East and "you can either let it happen or you can make it happen." Some governments, which he did not name, are addressing the needs of their people, but others have not "and the need for change is then coming from the people - and that's what we are seeing around us today." Throughout the Middle East, Nazif said, the top priorities of the people are jobs, better services and better living conditions and if governments fail to deliver, "political change becomes inevitable." He said the question in the Palestinian elections is "are they not happy with their own situation only, or are they not happy with their own leadership? That's the question we need to answer." Straw said he has lived by the results of democratic elections all his life and spent 18 years in opposition, so does agree with those who say the voters produced the wrong result and committed an injustice. "It's when you get the so-called wrong answer that the faith of the elite and of the powerful in a democracy can really be tested," he said. Already, he said, some people are saying the long-delayed elections should have been postponed further. But he disagreed. "There is a problem now in the occupied territories and it is a problem for Hamas," Straw said. "But the wrong answer leads straight back to Saddam Hussein, or it leads straight back to a Western-style coup d'etat to overturn the results of an election, then to military rule and decades of insurgency and bloodshed," he warned. "And a wrong answer approach, above all, leads to a loss of moral leadership, especially by the West." Straw said the West must now ensure that the Palestinian elections provide "a wider lesson in democracy." The first principle must be "that violence and democracy are incompatible." The second principle is that those elected must deliver what they have promised the voters, and this can only be done "by peaceful, nonviolent means," he said. Israel's right to exist is the third key principle, he said, and no Palestinian government "can in fact deliver for its own people without cooperation, without dealing with Israel." "Many have been surprised by the result, but I suspect that none have been more surprised than the Hamas leadership themselves - for all indications were they were expected to do well, but they were praying hard to be in opposition where they'd be able to exercise negative power without responsibility," Straw said. Now they have to face up to the fact that the responsibility of government in all democracies far exceeds the power, and Hamas' leaders "must be put on notice to meet their responsibilities," he said.