Monday, January 10, 2005


Palestinian Elections

The big story of the Palestinian elections is going to be voter turnout. Somehow, despite all of Richard Gere's efforts, the chairman of the Palestinian election commission put turnout at about 43 percent of eligible voters. Now, that's not very high. And that's not good for Abu Mazin, who got 66 to 70 percent of the vote, a number that represents the votes of between 28 and 30 percent of eligible Palestinian voters. There are obvious reasons why the turnout was so low, many of them are explored in this Serene Mulham article that appeared in al-Ahram before the elections. And while Israeli actions made conditions for elections far from perfect (see Graham Usher's al-Ahram article here for good coverage of that), as Amira Hass writes:
When it was reported yesterday, at around 5 P.M., that the Palestinian Central Elections Committee would keep the polls open another two hours, until 9 P.M., people in the Jabalya refugee camp knew the official reason given (Israeli delays of voting in Jerusalem) is not the main one.
Given that in recent municipal elections there was upwards of 80 percent turnout and even less scrutiny on Israeli obstruction (not to mention greater incentive for Israelis to obstruct elections where Hamas encouraged participation), there was simply a large segment of the Palestinian population who chose not to vote. And, as people wrote over and over and over again in the leadup and followup to the US presidential elections (which, despite their "importance," saw sadly low voter turnout figures), low voter turnout is largely the result of a sense of disempowerment, the sense that voting doesn't make a difference. Given the largely undemocratic manner in which the election took place (with backroom wheeling and dealing keeping Marwan Barghouti out of the race) and the undemocratic framework in which the election is taking place (in which no matter who is elected is subject to the will of Israel and the US) this is not that surprising. And of course there was the Hamas boycott (which, however you slice it, does not account for the low turnout completely).

But this won't stop Sharon pretending he has a "partner" now or make Bush think twice before saying something equally malevolent.

Aunt Deb
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