The Palestinian prime minister, Ahmed Qurei, and his government submitted their resignations Thursday as the radical Islamic faction Hamas appeared to have scored a major upset and defeated the ruling Fatah party in parliamentary elections.
However, no official results were expected until Thursday evening.
Fatah, which has dominated Palestinian politics for decades, was favored in Wednesday’s election and exit polls released after the polls closed projected Fatah as the winner by a narrow margin.
But on Thursday morning, Hamas leaders claimed their own count showed that the group was winning an outright majority in the 132-seat Palestinian Legislative Council. Sixty-seven seats are needed for a majority, and Ismail Haniya, a senior Hamas leader, said the group expected to at least 70. ~International Herald-Tribune
CNN’s latest is that Hamas has won a “landslide victory,” and if the reported results are correct it will gave Hamas an outright majority of 76 to Fatah’s mere 43 in an election that saw approximately 78% turnout. Representative democracy has “worked” in Palestine: we now know exactly what “the people” want and have one more example why they should not be asked the question in the first place.
If the conventional wisdom about Iraq’s elections is right (the fragmentation and division of power among myriad partues are supposedly good things, as they will make moderation and compromise unavoidable), the opposite will apply here: Hamas will have no need to moderate its language or change its “policies.” We can safely say that the Palestinian elections are a disaster–for the Palestinians. Israel will take this as a sign that Palestinians do not seriously want a negotiated settlement, which will strengthen the hand of Likud and the National Religious Party and undermine the already weakened appeal of Kadima. Yes, democracy has come to Palestine–the only question is whether Palestine will survive it.
Many of the headlines following Hamas’ “surprise, upset victory” in Palestinian elections conveyed the shock of Western elites that voters would, given the choice, prefer the more radical and militant faction. This is shock born of the delusion that most people in any given population want peace more than anything else. The “democratic peace” thesis rests on the assumption that the mass of men will almost always prefer peace and that the democratic process will restrain the government from having recourse to war. In fact, many men quite often would prefer war and it is only the restraint of circumstances and authorities that keeps these desires in check. This must especially be true of a people so embittered and radicalised by decades of repression, and whose political discourse (if we can call it that) is filled to the brim with the rhetoric of nationalism and Islamic fundamentalism. This Western sense of shock also comes from the assumption that most will vote for relatively ‘rational’ candidates and will make their decisions based on ‘rational’ grounds. Here are the results of a study showing that, at least as far as Americans are concerned, political decisions that voters make have very little to do with rational thought. Mass politics is, as it must be, emotionally driven.
This is why, in this country, the Bubba Clintons and George W. Bushes flourish in mass democratic politics and both educated men and technocrats fail. The latter, though very different from each other, both have a certain expertise and knowledge that they have honed over years of study or work, which makes it unusually difficult to convey their understanding to a crowd whose acquaintance with the wider world is about as sophisticated as a combination of The History Channel with The Amazing Race. Educated men operate under the illusion that intellect matters in politics, while technocrats believe that people are interested in facts.
The Bubbas know better–people want to be praised, stroked and promised the moon. Above all, they want to be protected (they care not how) and wish to feel superior to other nations (or, if they know they are not superior, they want their weakness explained in terms of the grievances suffered at the hands of the foe). Nationalist Bubbas will promise them the defeat of their (usually imagined) enemies and the aggrandisement of their name. He will assure them that they and their system of government are obviously superior to the rest, even though it should be obvious that any people and system of government capable of choosing such men for supreme power are terribly flawed.
The Bubbas can “connect” with a crowd in a way that a scholar or a policy wonk cannot, because he can speak their language of inchoate desire. For their part, the scholar and policy wonk finds all of this “connecting” a little beneath them and more than a little embarrassing–to do it successfully, they have to acknowledge that everything they think is important in political life is superfluous.