Thwarting Palestinian democracy

Cancellation of the first Palestinian election in 15 years says much about the abysmal state of Palestinian democracy. The 85-year-old Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas — elected to a four-year term in 2005, but still clinging to office — would have the world believe that, as usual, Israel is to blame for everything, including the election effectively being abandoned. He is being too cute by half. A dispute with Israel over voting by 150,000 eligible Palestinian voters living in East Jerusalem appears confected, designed as a fig leaf to spare Mr Abbas what polls suggest could have been a humiliating electoral loss for his Fatah party.

Infighting has splintered Fatah and produced several rivals for Mr Abbas, whose leadership is regarded by many younger Palestinians as corrupt and ineffective. His rivals include Mohammed Dahlan, a former Fatah security chief exiled by Mr Abbas in 2011 for allegedly planning a coup, and Nasser al-Kidwa, nephew of Fatah founder and former Palestinian president Yasser Arafat. Before Mr Abbas’ announcement that the May 22 and July 31 legislative and presidential elections would not go ahead, polls suggested Hamas, the Palestinian terrorist group that rules the Gaza Strip, could come out on top of Fatah, as it did in the 2006 elections. A short-lived Fatah-Hamas government fell apart, with the two fighting fiercely, before Hamas was left controlling Gaza and Fatah the West Bank.

Read the editorial in The Australian.