Thursday, January 28, 2021

Barghouti: Elections are the People’s Right

By Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi - October 21, 2019
Section: [Main News] [Opinion]
Tags: [elections]

There are at least six compelling reasons for exerting all possible effort to hold elections in Palestine.

The first is that elections are a right that has been usurped from the Palestinians for over nine years, and no one should have the power or ability to repudiate the people’s right to choose their own leadership.  

While true elections alone do not assure democracy, still, that concept cannot be brought to bear without periodic timely elections.

The second is that the current political system in its entirety is in deep crisis for numerous reasons, most damaging of which is the regrettable ongoing internal division. Furthermore, the absence of an active and effective legislative council has eliminated the basic principle of democracy, namely, the separation of the executive, the judicial and the legislative powers. 

The third reason is that the young generation represents the majority of Palestinians who are of legal voting age. These young people have not once been given the opportunity to take part in democratic elections or experience the process and means of political participation. As a result, many have abandoned civic and political activity because they feel marginalized and deprived of opportunities in leadership positions.

That young sector with all its exuberant energy cannot be reclaimed or activated in our struggle for freedom without being granted the right of political participation and made able to compete for decision-making positions. 

Fourth, the political challenges facing the Palestinian people – most hazardous of which are the constant attempts to liquidate the national cause, including the so-called “deal of the century” – require the activation and unification of local public capacities and fortification of the internal political structure. This is impossible to achieve without empowering Palestinian young men and women into becoming active participants. 

Fifth, the existing division between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip has reached a rather perilous state of affairs. One particularly harmful consequence is the quagmire of double legislation wherein the West Bank has 150 laws that do not apply to Gaza, and tens of laws in Gaza that are not applicable in the West Bank.

This conflict reinforces the process of social and political separation, which can only be resolved with the election of a unified legislative council that will review, revise and reframe these laws within a democratic process in a united parliament.

In the meantime, “Team Trump” does not even conceal its intent to entrench the separation of those two central parts of Palestine to bring equilibrium to the demographic equation – Palestinians to Israeli Jews – which would facilitate the annexation of the West Bank, or most of it, and eradicate the notion of an independent Palestinian state. 

The sixth reason is that the absence of the legislative council following its dissolution and the constant delay of the presidential and parliamentary elections weakens the Palestinian position with the international community. It also gives Israeli leaders the gall to continue propagating the claims that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East and that there are no legitimate representatives of all Palestinians. 

The best solution for ending the existing division and restoring democracy is to implement the reconciliation agreements forthwith. But in the event this cannot be realized, then there should be some form of national accord that could be reached through a collective dialogue among the various Palestinian political groups, which could determine the means and manner of holding democratic national elections that include Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza strip without any exceptions. 

With all due respect for its role and efforts, the Central National Elections Committee cannot accomplish those objectives on its own. What needs to be done is a gathering of an all-inclusive convention of Palestinian leaders that will bring about a national accord to conduct elections and can open the way to ending the division and restoring unity around a joint strategy. 

However, there are four challenges that could obstruct the achievement of successful democratic elections, foremost of those is the dilemma of internal division that needs to end either through reconciliation or with a harmonious national accord to hold elections with unwavering recognition of the results.

The second hurdle is the Israeli occupation’s objection to holding elections in Jerusalem and its constant attempts to disrupt any elections. The way to overcome that obstacle is to turn the election process in Jerusalem into a popular non-violent resistance action in which all political forces form a unified front to hold elections in spite of the occupation and possible Israeli obstructive decisions.

The third challenge is ensuring the integrity of the election process. This cannot be achieved except with the firm acceptance and immediate implementation of the principle of the rule of law, while guaranteeing freedom of expression, gathering, organizing and publicizing political opinion, completely free of all forms of partisan repression, oppression and incarceration. 

Equally important are two matters that must be rejected under any circumstances. One is excluding the Gaza Strip from elections under the guise of division. This would in effect fulfil the objectives of “the deal of the century”, turning the division into a permanent separation and eradicating the idea of independent Palestinian state. The second is not holding elections in Jerusalem, which is an extremely dangerous precedent that would mean succumbing to the illegal annexation and Judaization of the city. 

If intentions to hold elections are genuine, that could very likely be a factor in revitalizing and bolstering popular participation as well as ending the people’s frustration with the current conditions. Holding presidential and parliamentary elections would also make way for completing the process with elections for the Palestine Liberations Organization’s National Council, and those elected for the Legislative Council would automatically become representatives for the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in the National Council.  

All things considered, elections are an absolute right for all peoples and for the Palestinian people in particular, especially under the current circumstances. Elections are a national obligation and a means for resistance in as much as they are a firm turn towards democracy.

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