Before Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas postponed the Palestinian legislative elections, some observers thought that there would be fierce electoral competition that could lead to political change. Others argued that elections are the only way to achieve national unity and end the Palestinian internal rift between Fatah and Hamas, the two dominant political movements in Palestine.
But a closer look at what was going on in the electoral race betrays a different reality. The election was more likely to produce a “shamocracy” that would maintain the deep-rooted structures of oppression, tyranny and fragmentation.
This is because the two political forces that have dominated the Palestinian political scene over the past 15 years and are vying for power again, have inflicted severe damage on the Palestinian national movement, depleted the national liberation project, and exacerbated vertical and horizontal fragmentation within the Palestinian society.
As a result, over the decades, Palestinians have become mere observers of their plight and cause, unable to participate in political developments in their own communities. Indeed, their feeling of alienation in their homeland and estrangement from their government is a form of oppression tantamount to that inflicted by the Israeli colonial occupation. Palestinians need a government that liberates rather than enslaves them.
When the elections are eventually rescheduled, Fatah and Hamas will once again try to monopolise the vote. The worst the Palestinian electorate could do is give them legitimacy again by voting for their candidates. This would only strengthen their positions and reinforce their authoritarianism, leaving Palestinians in their current predicament for years to come.
But this is not an inevitable outcome. The elections, despite all their fundamental shortcomings, can still be an opportunity to transform the Palestinian political system, if approached differently.