Saturday, June 26, 2010

Support for “President” Abbas

Good news for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas – a recent poll shows that he has the support of a clear majority (54%) of those surveyed.  Maybe he can go ahead then and hold the presidential election that Palestine was suppose to stage a year and a half ago…

Ask an international diplomat who leads the government in Palestine and they’ll point to Mahmoud Abbas.  Technically though, Abbas’ term in office actually ended in early 2009; he’s been pretending to be president and the world has been pretending he’s legitimate ever since, largely because under the terms of the Palestinian constitution, the presidency should pass to ranking members of the Palestinian Legislative Council (their version of a national parliament), who also happen to be members of Hamas, and no one wants that.  Abbas cancelled the scheduled elections in 2009 by declaring a state of emergency following Israel launching Operation Cast Lead – their full-fledged military assault on the Gaza Strip.  In the year and a half since though neither Abbas nor the Palestinian Authority has found the time to reschedule them, again in large part because of the belief that Abbas would lose to a candidate put forward by Hamas.

This circles back to a problem the United States and other “Western” powers have in dealing with the Middle East: while they preach the need for democratic reforms in the region, they consistently accept autocratic rule in countries throughout the ME, so long as the autocrats are reliable allies – for prime examples, look at Saudi Arabia and Egypt.  Speaking of Egypt, it will be interesting to see if the US continues to support the decidedly un-democratic Hosni Mubarak, who has ruled Egypt with an increasingly iron fist for the past three decades, now that the former head of the UN’s atomic watchdog agency, Mohamed ElBaradei is emerging as the head of an opposition movement set on opposing Mubarak in the next election. 

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