Wednesday, December 16, 2009

New York Times' Abbas Error

Today's New York Times featured this little article about how the Palestine Liberation Organization extended the term of office of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, a move the Times said was necessary since Abbas' "official tenure expires in little over a month."

The problem is that Abbas' term as president actually ended almost a year ago on January 9th. In January of 2005 Abbas was elected to a four-year term as the president of the Palestinian Authority (the de facto national government of "Palestine"). Some simple math shows that January 2005 + four years = January 2009; yet Abbas remains in office and continues to call himself "President".

Last year Abbas said that it would be impossible to hold a presidential election since the Gaza Strip portion of Palestine was being controlled by Hamas, the arch-rivals of Abbas' Fatah Party. Abbas pushed to have the presidential election delayed until 2010 when the next elections for the Legislative Council were scheduled. Now the Palestine Liberation Organization (Fatah's umbrella organization) is using the same Hamas excuse to now indefinitely delay those elections.

The problem is that in a democracy - at least not in a functioning democracy - the president or ruling party can't just arbitrarily extend their term in office. I would expect a venerable news organization like the New York Times to know a small detail such as the fact that Abbas' term in office actually ended almost a year ago - but apparently I'm expecting too much from the Times these days.
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