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A Clarification on Hamas and Fatah « The Washington Independent

I said in an earlier post on the Obama administration and the Goldstone commission that Hamas might “benefit if next year’s scheduled elections go forward.” That was poorly phrased. What I meant was that Hamas stands to benefit from the weakening of more moderate factions. Because, as George Washington University’s Nathan Brown emailed me, I elided a pretty important fact:

But your post mentions a couple times the possibility of Hamas running in elections. You’re missing something (though you’re in good company). They can’t run. They are barred by Abbas’s decree law on elections. Not by name, but still pretty explicitly: nobody can run who doesn’t certify his/her acceptance of some things that Hamas won’t accept. Those provisions were inserted precisely to keep Hamas from running.

This is, by the way, another case of blindness to Palestinian domestic politics. The reason elections are unlikely is because they would be deeply unpopular unless they would be based on national reconciliation. They would give nobody in Ramallah any legitimacy and would probably cost them dearly.

Since the June 2007 fighting in Gaza, it’s been pretty clear that there couldn’t be elections unless Hamas and Fatah agree, the US supports them, and Israel acquiesces. And that’s a tough series of hoops. The most likely course, by the way, is for the Central Elections Commission to report to Abbas that they don’t think they can carry out elections. He then regretfully reports that while he is a good democrat, Hamas is not. And he throws the problem to the PLO to appoint a president (and get rid of the parliament where Hamas still has a majority). I don’t know who that president will be—we’ll hear what Abbas has to say about that soon—but I would guess Abbas himself is still the most likely option.

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