Thursday, 10 March 2011

Palestine Elections: Voting the Right Way for Europe

British Foreign Secretary William Hague, fresh from his confused Libyan spy adventure, demonstrated his ignorance of another Middle Eastern issue yesterday. After Fatah leader, Mahmoud Abbas, one of two claimants to be President of the Palestinian National Authority, called for immediate elections to the National Council, his party's main rivals, Hamas, denounced the idea, saying there had to be a reconciliation process before any elections are held.

Hague was quick to denounce Hamas' opposition to voting:
Hamas should not be allowed to “stifle the democratic expression of Palestinians”, he thundered, or more likley croaked after his troubles of the last few days.

On the face of it, who but rabid anti-democrats would oppose elections? In liberal democratic terms, is anything more important than getting to a ballot box?

Yet what Mr Hague did not acknowledge, either from ignorance or deviousness, was that Palestinians have gone to the polls before, voted and elected Hamas as their government. Here are the results of the Palestinian General election of 2006:

    • Hamas          - 440,409 votes;  74 seats
    • Fatah/PLO   - 410,554 votes;  45 seats
    • Others          -   97,815 votes;  11 seats
At the same time, in a direct election, Fatah's Abbas was elected as President and both he and the National Council were to have a five year term with elections due again in January this year.

Yet, inspite of this, with the then Conservative Opposition's full support, the British Government and its American and European counterparts refused to acknowledge Hamas' election, repeatedly rebuffing their attempts to enter the international stage and conniving with Israel in its dreadful blockade of Gaza which continues even today. Because, just as we have seen in Egypt recently, for all the West's claims to want to export the Holy Grail of electoral democracy to the world, it turns out that elections are quite disposable if the results turn out to be wrong. For democracy to work, it seems, people have to vote the right way.

Deep in brutalised Gaza, Palestinians worry endlessly about voting reform.

And so, isolated and ignored in spite of their vital importance to any peace process, Hamas currently control the Palestinian territory in the Gaza strip after a break between them and Fatah, who control the myriad of PNA statelets scattered around the Israeli controlled West Bank. After the violence and the disputed arrangments in the territories since, a reconciliation process is absolutely vital.

Abbas is effectively grandstanding for the benefit of his Washington sponsors in calling for elections - no outcome would provide a satisfactory or peaceful settlement if it was not preceded by talks and agreement. That agreement, of course, needs first and foremost to be between Palestinians, but also vital is agreement from America and Europe - including Mr Hague (assuming he remains Foreign Secretary in spite of everything) - that they will respect the outcome of any elections as the genuine wishes of the Palestinians and undertake to engage with whoever wins.

After all, surely the sole purpose of Western foreign policy is to promote democracy around the world? That's what Iraq was about, wasn't it? And why all these people have to die in Afghanistan? And why we sold all these weapons to nice Mr Mubarak? Isn't it?

No comments:

Post a Comment