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May 12, 2005
So Much For The Rule Of Law

The Palestinians have a parliamentary election scheduled for July 17th that appears to be headed for a significant victory for Hamas. The Fatah faction supporting President Mahmoud Abbas has agitated for a postponement to avoid this political debacle, which would surely reveal his status as an unmandated leader elected on the basis of a fraudulent vote. Today, one of Abbas' senior aides upped the ante, saying that the current Parliament had not yet passed a new election law, making elections in July almost impossible:

The Palestinian parliamentary election set for July should be postponed, a senior Palestinian official said in an interview published Thursday, another sign that the ruling Fatah Party is deeply worried about the electoral prospects of militant Islamic groups.

The election, only the second in the 11 years since the
Palestinian Authority was founded, is scheduled for July 17, but Tayeb Abdel Rahim, a senior aide to Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, called for a delay.

It was the strongest indication yet that Abbas might postpone the election, despite a promise to Hamas to hold the vote on time. Hamas quickly rejected the call.

Fatah activists have warned Abbas the party is headed for defeat if it goes to elections in July. Polls show Palestinian voters are fed up with corruption and inefficiency in the Palestinian government, dating to the rule of Yasser Arafat, who died last November. Without Arafat's charisma and standing, Abbas could lead his Fatah Party to a poor showing, further eroding his credibility and ability to rein in militants.

Fatah leaders say their they have a better chance if the election is held after Israel's withdrawal from Gaza this summer something Abbas can claim as an achievement and after a party convention in August would usher some younger, reform-minded candidates into key positions.

Don't expect the wheels of Palestinian democracy to start spinning any time soon. Hamas has outclassed Fatah in almost every election in which the former contested, and all indications are that the terrorist group would win a substantial majority of seats in Parliament in a free election. Not only would that expose Abbas as a fraud -- remember that Hamas boycotted the presidential election and Fatah kept changing the rules on Election Day to get the turnout above 30% -- but it would likely endanger the Israeli pullout from Gaza. All other negotiations would likely cease as well.

Worst of all for the Palestinian Authority, such a result would confirm that Palestinians are less interested in negotiating a peace based on co-existence with Israel than in its annihilation, the still-proclaimed end goal of Hamas. That would bring a screeching halt to some Western aid, especially from the US, which barely keeps their economy afloat as it is. Fatah wants to put that day off as long as possible to keep naive Westerners from discovering that the vast majority of Palestinians want nothing of peace or negotiations. They just want time to gather their strength and resources in order to wage war more effectively, and hopefully do so from a position of sovereignty over the West Bank.

Expect no further elections until next year. Fatah can keep the elections off the table until then simply by stalling the bill in Parliament for as long as they need. If that doesn't solve their problem, then fraud may have to do in the meantime.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at May 12, 2005 7:25 AM

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