How Mahmoud Abbas Crushed Palestinian Hopes for Democracy

Jan. 10 2019

Yesterday marked the fourteenth anniversary of Mahmoud Abbas’s election to the presidency of the Palestinian Authority (PA) for a four-year term. Not only have no subsequent elections for the presidency been held, but no elections for the Palestine Legislative Council, the PA’s parliament, have taken place since 2006. Abbas has now taken the additional step of formally dissolving that already-defunct body. Elliott Abrams marks the missed opportunity for Palestinian democracy:

That 2005 election was a milestone for Palestinians. Yasir Arafat had died the previous November, and this election was to choose his successor as head of the PA. It was a good election—free and fair in the sense that the votes were counted accurately and people could campaign against Abbas, [who] won only about 62 percent of the vote (compare this to Egypt’s President Sisi’s ludicrous claim to have won 97 percent of the vote in the 2018 election there). One challenger won 20 percent. Hamas boycotted the election, but was not forced to do so. . . .

[W]hat Abbas has done since the last election, in 2006, is to gut the development of Palestinian democratic institutions. There are excuses, of course: Hamas is too dangerous and might win as it did in 2006, Israel is to blame, and so on. But in fact Abbas is snuffing out all opposition to his rule and forbidding all dissent. . . .

[T]he 2005 election and the parliamentary election the following year marked the high-water mark of democracy in the West Bank. As Abbas marks his anniversary in power, those who had hoped for positive political evolution in the Palestinian territories can only mourn the way he has governed, especially in the last decade. He has outlawed politics in the West Bank. Under the guise of fighting Hamas, he has forbidden any criticism of the corrupt rule [of his] Fatah party and prevented any debate on the Palestinian future. Just as Arafat soon eliminated all independent institutions when he returned to the Palestinian territories in 1994, Abbas has crushed the hopes that arose—after Arafat’s death in 2004 and his own election in 2005—for a democratic future for Palestinians.

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More about: Arab democracy, Hamas, Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian Authority, Politics & Current Affairs

 

The Syrian Civil War May Be Coming to an End, but Three New Wars Are Rising There

March 26 2019

With both Islamic State and the major insurgent forces largely defeated, Syria now stands divided into three parts. Some 60 percent of the country, in the west and south, is in the hands of Bashar al-Assad and his allies. Another 30 percent, in the northeast, is in the hands of the mostly Kurdish, and American-backed, Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The final 10 percent, in the northwest, is held by Sunni jihadists, some affiliated with al-Qaeda, under Turkish protection. But, writes Jonathan Spyer, the situation is far from stable. Kurds, likely linked to the SDF, have been waging an insurgency in the Turkish areas, and that’s only one of the problems:

The U.S.- and SDF-controlled area east of the Euphrates is also witnessing the stirrings of internal insurgency directed from outside. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, “236 [SDF] fighters, civilians, oil workers, and officials” have been killed since August 2018 in incidents unrelated to the frontline conflict against Islamic State. . . . The SDF blames Turkey for these actions, and for earlier killings such as that of a prominent local Kurdish official. . . . There are other plausible suspects within Syria, however, including the Assad regime (or its Iranian allies) or Islamic State, all of which are enemies of the U.S.-supported Kurds.

The area controlled by the regime is by far the most secure of Syria’s three separate regions. [But, for instance, in] the restive Daraa province in the southwest, [there has been] a renewed small-scale insurgency against the Assad regime. . . .

As Islamic State’s caliphate disappears from Syria’s map, the country is settling into a twilight reality of de-facto division, in which a variety of low-burning insurgencies continue to claim lives. Open warfare in Syria is largely over. Peace, however, will remain a distant hope.

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More about: ISIS, Kurds, Politics & Current Affairs, Syrian civil war, Turkey