The victory of Hamas in yesterday’s parliamentary elections in Palestine raises some interesting questions. Before I get to those, I want to point out that the election was monitored by the National Democratic Institute, with Jimmy Carter in the lead, and according to their analysis, the election was fair. If you want to learn more about the election procedures, NPR did an interesting story about this yesterday.
The interesting question is, in a democratic society, what happens when the people want to be represented by a party that do not have international approval. The U.S. spent almost $1.9 million attempting to influence this election. As the New York Times reported on January 23rd, “The United States spent about $1.9 million of its yearly $400 million in aid to the Palestinians on dozens of quick projects before elections this week to bolster the governing Fatah faction’s image with voters and strengthen its hand in competing with the militant faction Hamas.”
In an editorial in the Jerusalem Post, the paper notes that the election in Palestine is truly historic for its democratic meaning.
There are many measures of democracy: whether free elections are reliably held, whether the rule of law protects the people from their government, and whether there is, in practice, full freedom of assembly and expression. Palestinian democracy has a way to go according to all these measures, but on Wednesday it leapt over what is perhaps the greatest democratic hurdle of all: whether the people have the power to remove their government from office.
The key question is how well this new democracy represents the Palestinians and whether the new government can effectively work in the international arena.