Friday, January 27, 2006

Democracy: Is it really all that great?

Hands up, who's big idea was it to insist on free Palestinian elections as part of the “road map to peace”? That fairly backfired on ye, now didn’t it? Who knew the Palestinians would choose wrongly and put a party committed to violence and the destruction of Israel into power? Oh I hear the excuses: “But militant Islamics have never come to power via democratic elections considered free and fair by international observers before!” Well, was it not obvious that the only law observed in the Middle East is Murphy's Law? Jesus, look at Iraq. If something can go wrong it will. Hamas' victory in the Palestinian elections has thrown a fairly sizeable spanner into the works for all manner of reasons. Israel is gearing herself up for a crucial set of elections in March. Much will depend on what happens between now and then, but it will be very interesting to see how the Israeli electorate react to Hamas’ victory as they choose between the moderates and hardliners in finding a new leader and new direction post-Sharon. Hamas themselves probably didn’t even want this, as they would have preferred to have constituted a sizeable proportion of a Fatah led government. According to the BBC, Hamas are likely to consult Fatah and other groups with a view of forming a political partnership. However, Abbas has said before that he would resign if unable to work towards a peaceful resolution with Israel, so the likelihood of such a partnership, is questionable. Israel and the West could be forced to do business with Hamas without the moderating influence of Fatah. World leaders have already stated they will not deal with Hamas before it has renounced violence and its quest to destroy Israel. Would Hamas ever be seen to do this when under pressure from Israel? How has the IRA reacted to pressure from Britain and Unionism over the years? And what will happen if Hamas refuses to renounce its ideology and goals? As for Bush its a definite case of "Be careful what you wish for". It was his idea to hold Palestinian elections as early as possible, so great was his faith in the democratic process. The only silver-lining is that Hamas' victory was not won on a platform of terrorism and violence. Instead they concentrated on social issues and down played the conflict with Israel. They were also helped greatly by the corruption in Fatah. This is good news for two reasons. Firstly, Hamas' victory does not mark a definite shift to violence amongst ordinary Palestinians. Secondly, it shows that social issues, rather than just the conflict with Israel, concern the ordinary Palestinian. This may force Hamas to play ball with Israel and the West. Palestine wants an end to this thing as much as anybody, and the destruction of a U.S backed Israel simply isn’t going to happen. Similarly in the Israel and the West, ordinary people will quickly grow tired of any stalemate or indeed an escalation in violence. A poll conducted by CBS News found that 48% of Israelis believe Israel should talk with a government lead by Hamas (43% were against). The will of the people could force both sides to find a solution, but time and events will tell. This result, along with the trouble in Iraq, could be seen as the inevitable teething problems of Middle Eastern democracy. One exercise in democracy has just put the Israeli-Palestinian situation into a very sticky situation. When Israel does likewise in March the problems may be compounded even further. That’s democracy for you, warts and all, sometimes you don’t get the result that you want. I'm not going to become Supreme Ruler of Planet Earth any time soon, so Democracy still represents the best form of Government we have got. Whilst it has complicated things in Palestine, if the average person on each side of the Israeli-Palestinian divide wants this situation resolved, surely it still remains a vital cog in finding a solution to the problem.


Simon said...

nice post. It think Robert Fisk agreed without his article in the Irish Indo today was very much along the lines of. god dahm Demorcarcy

CK said...

These elections would need to have been democratic for them to justify considering these results valid. People were in fear of their lives and refrained from voting, they were excluded from voting based on their addresses. These elections were nothing more than a rhetorical farce, I'm glad they backfired so as to save us from another gloating press conference from the White House lawn.

Eamonn said...

Who put the people in fear of their lives, and who excluded people from voting based on their addresses? I thought these elections were considered fair and democratic by impartial international observers.

And i'm unsure whether avoiding a 'gloating press conference from the White House lawn' is a sufficently good trade for a Hamas led Palestinian Government.

CK said...

Palestinians in East Jerusalem were only allowed to vote inthe elections as a concession by the Israeli government a week before the elections. Any sort of intervention or placing limits on individuals rights to vote or participate is abhorent to democracy. Hamas were not allowed to campaign within this region which may be understandable, but the reality is they were permitted to campaign in Palestinian territories- the inconsistencies and control Israel feels it is entitled to in the elections to another Parliament is ridiculous and a disgrace.

A gloating press conference would be one example of the back slapping that would go on were the 'right' results achieved, such results would preserve the staus quo of punishment and terror of Palestinians, like I referred to in reviewing 'Munich' what is presented by international observers should be questioned. Are these the same international observers that cover suicide bombings extensively but ignore the mass killings orchestrated by Israel in response?

Eamonn said...

You still haven't revealed the identity of those you claim threatened the lives of voters in the lead up to the election, stopping these people from voting . However, going by your previous comments i'm going to go ahead and assume you mean the Israeli government (I know, one should never assume, the whole ass, you, me, issue).

I agree that limits on peoples rights to vote is 'abhorrent to democracy', however they were still allowed to vote. Hamas were not allowed to campaign, but you concede that this was maybe understanadable. Well, if it was understandable, whats the problem? Should they have been restricted in all Palestinian areas? Or should Israel have let them campaign in East Jerusalem, and to hell with any security problems that this raises?

I don't know the name of these independent international observers as you point out. I take that the message you took from Munich is trust nobody. Still, I fail to see how we have benifited by merely avoiding American back slapping over the 'right result' when the price we pay is having Hamas in power. The status quo may have been preserved otherwise, but only temporarily. The current situation has placed a fairly large obstacle in the path of progress being made to aid the plight of the Palestinians. In fact things might get worse, with America and Europe threatening to withdraw aid to the Palestinian Government.