Reality of Democracy

Hamas supporters take part in a rally celebrating the results of the Palestinian parliamentary elections.

In one of the most free and fair elections in the Arab world, and with a remarkably high turnout, Palestinian voters altered the political map of the Middle East. The result of their democratic undertaking is that Hamas will soon begin the task of forming a new Palestinian government. This political earthquake, while no less stunning, has been a long time in the making. For years, there has been growing discontent among Palestinians with Fatah's corrupt and ineffective governance. In going to the polls, many voters were expressing their frustration with the ruling party's failure to deliver peace, implement reforms, improve living conditions or free the Palestinians from their shackles of poverty and unemployment. By casting votes for Hamas, many voters were hitting back at Fatah for its failures, rather than expressing their support for the Islamist party.

Hamas came to power largely because it was able to capitalize on the weaknesses of Fatah. Ironically, many of these weaknesses were the result of Israel's efforts to undermine the authority of former President Yasser Arafat. Israel's campaign to isolate and marginalize Arafat and empower then-Prime Minister Ahmad Qorei served to weaken the Palestinian Authority and the office of the presidency. The efforts to render Arafat politically impotent contributed to the rise of a powerful alternative party, which now, with a weakened presidency, will have even greater authority in government.

Many analysts are expressing fears that Hamas' victory will deal a fatal blow to the peace process. But while Hamas has a history of rocket attacks and suicide bombings, it is not an organization of raving madmen. Overtaking a huge machine like Fatah on the narrow political roads and alleyways of Gaza and the West Bank required adventurism, and like many political adventurers, Hamas turned to brinkmanship. But this does not mean that the party is confined to this role. In fact, during the past year the militant arm of the party has demonstrated considerable pragmatism and self-restraint. And despite provocation, Hamas has remained committed to a cease-fire with Israel since last February.

It is impossible to predict how Hamas will behave in the future. Now that they are in a position of authority, rather than opponents of the ruling regime, their behavior is likely to change. Hamas will be forced to respond to its constituents, the majority of whom want peace and prosperity. For the past few years, Hamas officials have done well at governing at the municipal level, and have earned a reputation for honesty and integrity in governance. But running a municipality is worlds away from operating at the national level, where Hamas will have to deal with Israel, which still holds the keys to improving Palestinians' living conditions.

The elections mark a new beginning, one in which Hamas will take another step in its transformation from a popular liberation movement into a legitimate political party. It is a fresh start - both for the party and for the Palestinians - and marks the beginning of a new reality on the ground. The sooner Israelis, Americans and Europeans accept this reality, the sooner we can move toward resolving differences, and avoiding further conflagration.

  Category: Middle East, World Affairs
  Topics: Elections, Government And Politics, Hamas, Palestine
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Older Comments:
I believe that each country chooses its
government and it is up to the people, by
voting to choose there kind of political party. In
this case in Palestine they chose Hamas, and
good for them. If they wanted Hamas to lead
them in a majority vote no one or country
should stop them or have a conflict with them.
Isn't democracy to chose your represenatives
to lead you?

I do not agree that the Israel weakened the Yasser Arafat or Fatah party but rather they weakened themselves by becoming corrupt and acting against the wishes of the people. Hamas did the right things required at any time be it at peace or at war and by following same standards they will manage well at the National level. How ironic, Israel and the West who are by their actions now advocating anti Democracy with an excuse for Hamas to renounce violence while threatening them not only of violence but witholding of monetary assistance and unwilling to sit and discuss with them.

Answer to Doinphine.
Yasser Arafat&PLO started with a different agenda.A national struggle when your odds of being noticed are minimal are usually bloody. PLO was shaped after the Syrian and especially the Iraqi Ba'ath party which most notorious character is presently on trial,Saddam Hussein. The agenda of these people is a form of secular socialism.A sort of Stalinism without the denial of God. However their members are not believers. It's just a political strategy.Those that believe can identify themselves with the Ba'ath or PLO because these organizations allow the belief in God.I don't need to explain to you where does a leadership with such anagenda lead to. Just look at former Iraq and Syria. Both were(Syria still is) autocratic dictatorships and a military threat to their neighbours. If you looked for a form of governace friendly to Israel you will not find it in ME, unless Turkey.
Hamas on the other hand, irregardless of their rhetorics and suicide missions is a revolution. I don't recall any revolution in history not to be bloody. The formation of modern France, Italy, Germany, Britain, USA and even Israel, all required bloodshed and their freedom fighters were viewed at a time as terrorists. As they took in office, things changed, so with IRA and Sin Fein. I am hopeful that hamas will pass through fundamental changes and will establish a reasonable political platform. There is a difference between aspiring and being achieved. I count on the Islamic aspect of hamas that would call for clearvoyance and legality in their actions as leaders. Islamic values are not different than the Judeo-Christian ones. However, the world is mainly secular and those values might be antagonistic Hamas. But I believe in the learning process.There are a lot of young Hamas very educated and who acquired their education in the west,I hope that they will use their life&academic experiences to forge a meaningful political aparatus.PLO on the other hand is decadent and corrupt.

Hamas has always been an organization who taught its young people to blow themselves up in their teen years with bombs to get back at the Israeli's. Their is no glory in suicide and only Allah has the right to take our life, not us. With a group with such hostile intentions i see little chance for Palestine to be governed in such a peaceful way by Hamas. If they want to be recognized as an individual nation who strives for peace and stability then they must know how to act accordingly in conjunction with their fellow countries to show they are capable of being a peaceful people and to establish commerce for themselves. I think another islamic moderate group would be a better leader for Palestine. I am however happy at last now they a little freedom which is every human beings right in this life. May Allah take her into the path or righteousness and bring her into peace and joy.

Question:Is this a case of history repeating itself? Didn't Yassar Arafat and the PLO start in the same way as Hamas?

What are the similarities and the differences. I would appreciate answers on these questions. Thank-you.

Congradulations to all in Palistien and to Hamas. Inshallah the rest of the world will see them for who they really are....caring, concerned, honest and God fearing muslims.
Its time to let those who truly love their country and know whats best; to govern it.
God Bless Palistien and its beautiful people and best of luck to the new and better govt to come. out....this is democracy at its best and u will see Hamas in a differnt light, and see the oppressors (isreal) for who they are.

This victory of Hamas may serve as a means to peace process. To my undrestanding Hamas has been helping Plastinan and has been well organized. Isreali's govenment demand respect and acceptance from Arab nations, and they must stop bulling and sabataging Palastinian's authority. Gongradulation to Hamas and wish them well in their undertaking and hope they work for peace in the middle east.

My hope is that as the role of Hamas changes from critic/revolutionary to becoming the ruling party it will have to face the realities of the situation. I would assume that the bulk of the Palestinians are not on a suicide mission and just want peace and prosperity. In order to stay in power, they will have to deliver some of this to their constituents. This will not happen if they continue to avow total destruction of Israel. Now that they are in power it may actually be easier to choose to refrain from violence. It may now be easier since it will not be seen as a capitulation to the corrupt Fatah. The worst thing the US could do is make it politically impossible for them to do this by our interference.

Congratulations, to the People of Palestine & Hamas. Hopefully Hamas will cease this opportunity to prove themselves as a party who can govern honestly and at the same time struggle to free Jerusalem.

I am glad to see GW Bush plans derailed, however temporarily it is. What a laughing stock he is !! LOL

I agree with the writer but I do not understand why this election is given so much importance when the Palestinians neither have liberty nor freedom. Democracy simply cannot exist without complete freedom. Undeniably, Palestinians live in a prison. Each child born to a Palestinian is born in Israeli captivity, under Israeli subjugation and oppression. Life is a daily unbearable hell for every Palestinian. Israel controls (and thoroughly abuses) their water, electricity, food supplies, healthcare, gas, jobs, even the ordinary everday movement of every Palestinian is monitored and restricted. All this is glossed over by our own good old USA the great "champion" of the "underdog" and indeed by the entire "civilised world". A Palestine complete with 8 ft walls, machine gun towers and check points at every 1/2 mile, what would the winner of this election achieve? The post of the Chief of Prisoners ? The only ones who really won and are grinning are the Israelis. Now that Hamas has won, as predicted, the Israelis have refused to negotiate with Hamas, labelling them terrorists, hence killing the peace process. But had Fatah won, it would have changed nothing. The peace process would simply have been stalled and stymied, as it had been by the Israelis, for yet another claim that Fatah was not doing anything to stop Hamas terrorism. There is nothing here to rejoice. Nothing short of absolute freedom should be accepted. Israelis will keep on confiscating Palestinian land and destroying homes and when the Palestinians fight back for what is rightfully theirs they will be killed in scores, called terrorists while the world simply look the other way. The UN will tell the Palestinians to tone down the violence, as US will veto any resolution to condemn Israel. Nothing will change. Same old story.

Congratulations to people of Palestine for their verdict. I hope Hamas will set an example of an honest government so that the rest of muslim countries can learn from them.

I am also glad that things are not going right for world's number one terrorist, GW Bush.