Fatah Elections Detached From Reality / Khaled Abu Toameh

December 6, 2011
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has just announced that he wants to hold new presidential and parliamentary elections in May 2012.

Abbas aides said this week that their Fatah faction has begun preparing for the upcoming elections. They added that Hamas would be allowed to participate in the vote for the second time since 2006.

What is surprising is that Fatah leaders are now reassuring their supporters that this time they will win the elections.

It is not yet clear what Fatah's optimism is based on. One Fatah official, Azzam al-Ahmed, explained that the Palestinians are "different" from the rest of the Arabs and that is why they will not vote again for Hamas.

"In spite of the rise of Islamists to power in a number of Arab countries, Fatah will win the elections because the Palestinians are different," al-Ahmed, who is closely associated with Abbas, was quoted as saying.

Abbas's insistence on holding new elections, and al-Ahmed's optimistic predication, show that Fatah is detached from reality.

Obviously, Abbas and his aides have chosen to bury their heads in the sand as a way of escaping seeing the reality as it is.

Fatah is probably the only Arab party that continues to view the current turmoil in the Arab world as a secular-led campaign to bring freedom, democracy and reform to Arab countries.

The victory of the Islamists in Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt has only strengthened Hamas -- the Palestinian branch of Muslim Brotherhood. That is why it was no surprise that Hamas leaders were the first -- and only --Palestinians to welcome the results of the parliamentary elections in Egypt.

The Islamist tsunami that is currently sweeping the Arab world is bad news for Abbas and his Fatah loyalists, who continue to live in denial. The victory of the Islamists in Egypt will not only bolster Hamas's standing, but also severely undermine Abbas's authority.

By the time the Palestinians go the ballot boxes in May, the Islamists will most likely have made further gains in other Arab countries. On the day of elections, the Palestinians will in all undoubtedly be surrounded by Islamist governments and parliaments supporting Hamas financially.

Abbas needs to wake up and realize that holding elections under the current circumstances would be tantamount to suicide. Who knows better than he that Fatah continues to suffer from a problem of credibility largely because of its failure to reform, and that he would do well to draw the appropriate conclusions from Fatah's defeat to Hamas in 2006.

But if Abbas insists on going ahead with the elections -- which will certainly bring Hamas to the West Bank as well -- then the Americans and Europeans should suspend their efforts to resume the "peace process" with Israel until after the planned elections in the Palestinian territories.

Related Topics: Khaled Abu Toameh

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