Friday, November 12, 2004

Arab Elections - Place Your Bets

We all know that Iraqi elections are scheduled for January. Now that Yasser has left this world for the eternal reward, Palestinian elections "are set to take place within 60 days." That puts the PA elections on roughly the same schedule as the Iraqi elections, both now set for January 2005. Anybody care to bet which elections are in fact held and which are not? Anyone care to give odds?

My money is on the Iraqi elections taking place as scheduled, despite the violence and insecurity. The elections will not be perfect. Polling places may not be available in every district or province. There will almost certainly be attacks on election day itself. But flawed as they may be, they will be the free and open and fair by any historical Iraqi standard (which admittedly is a very low threshold, sort of like aiming for the floor and being proud that you hit the target but you have to start somewhere).

But watch the PA. Regardless of any Israel military action the elections will either be delayed due to an "emergency situation" or "an unfree voting environment" either of which will be blamed on the Israelis. Or the elections will take place as a "referendum" on the current leadership, meaning people can vote Yes or No but not actually choose between competing candidates. And most everyone will vote Yes. Of course that isn't an election at all.

Not that this will make a damn bit of difference. The media will likely portray the Iraqi elections as a fraud and a failure because they will not up to the standards of the free world, even though they may very will be a major advance over any previous elections in Iraqi (or Arab) history. The Arab media at least will claim that the PA elections are a "triumph of the spirit of the Palestinian people and a rebuke to the Israeli occupiers" even though they will be little more that a show, the electoral equivalent of shadow puppets. Such is our situation.

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