VOX POPULI, PALESTINIAN STYLE
By Micah Halpern
Welcome to The Micah Report, my ruminations on Israel, terror & security and the Middle East as well as politics and world events. Thanks for stopping by.
Barghouti is young. He's charismatic. He is a child of the first Intifada, a moving force behind the current Intifada. He is popular and he has a growing following.
So why is Marwan Barghouti not standing for election to become the next president of the Palestinian Authority? Don't say the reason is because he's in prison. That's irrelevant. It would not be the first time a prisoner ran for election. Or won. Actually, he is probably more popular and equally powerful now, while in prison, than he was as head of the Tanzim, running around Ramallah in his crisp shirts and dapper bomber jacket.
If Barghouti were to run and win, it would be a situation akin to Mandela and South Africa. Not only was Nelson Mandela a hero/icon within his own country after winning the election from prison, but he was catapulted onto the world stage as a national leader, a voice to be heard, a force to be reckoned with.
And that would be a huge coup for the Palestinians. The Israelis would have a very difficult time deflecting the pressure of world leadership, and they would probably cave in to the demands. The Palestinians would gain ground on issues like Jerusalem and the refugees that otherwise would have been won - or lost - only after long, protracted, negotiating battles.
So, I repeat, why is Marwan Barghouti not standing for election in the PA?
The former head of the Fatah-Tanzim says that he is withdrawing his candidacy because he wants a single candidate from the Fatah party in the election. He says that he wants to show allegiance to the movement and support only one candidate, the current Fatah candidate Mahmoud Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen. That's disturbing.
Even more disturbing is that this is the second time a major personality has withdrawn his candidacy giving that same reason. Last week it was Mohammad Dahlan. The former head of security in Gaza, Dahlan had long been thought of as a future successor to Arafat and has been involved in several power plays laying the ground for the position.
What is happening in the Palestinian Authority now is a far cry from democracy at work. It is the opposite of democracy. One serious, sure to win candidate is not what is needed. The Palestinian people really need to be educated on the difference between true democracy, as in Europe and other Western countries, and mock democracy, as in what passes for democratically held elections in Egypt. They must be taught that the title "president" does not mean anything unless the process of a real democratic election selects the president. That is where the power of the position is grounded.
Elections are meant to be "vox populi", the voice of the people, not the manipulation of the people and the process.
Unless the issues are discussed in the public where the Palestinian people and the world can hear what each candidate has to say about the big issues, it will not be a real election and it certainly will not be a democracy. Where do the candidates stand on education? How will they educate their youth concerning the future? What is their stand on Israel, on refugees, on Jerusalem? Let us hear from them.
The Palestinian people must demand choices. And their future leaders must support the demand. But real choices, not just names pre-determined to be losers. Elections are not a public relations game, a ploy to get US and European money and support, a tactic to force Israel to concede more significant concessions and propel the Palestinians closer towards achieving statehood.
To rig the election would be a cheap sham, not like electing a prisoner and thrusting him on Israel. That, at least, would have some class.