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Fig leaf democracy

The first Palestinian election marked a modest start in the establishment of a democratic culture. But its aim, says Ian Black, was to legitimise peace with Israel, not to establish democracy

By Ian Black   February 1996

The 1993 Oslo agreement between Israel and the PLO stated that Palestinian elections would “provide a democratic basis for the establishment of Palestinian institutions.”

“Basis” is a mercifully vague term: before polling day on January 20th independent observers were highly critical of arbitrary changes in dates for nominations, campaigning rules and even the number of seats. All these changes originated with Yasser Arafat’s Palestinian Authority-the embryonic form of whatever entity finally emerges from the peace process. Elections have taken place not to establish democracy but to legitimise this peace process among the Palestinians.

Many of the 700 candidates were either…

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