Before Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas postponed Palestinian legislative elections, some observers thought 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 happening in the election race reveals a different reality. The elections most likely produced a “shamocracy” that would maintain the ingrained structures of oppression, tyranny, and fragmentation.
This is due to the fact that the two political forces that have dominated the Palestinian political scene for the past 15 years and are again competing for power, have caused serious damage to the Palestinian national movement, exhausted the project of national liberation and aggravated the vertical and horizontal fragmentation within the Palestinian Society.
As a result, over the decades, Palestinians have become mere observers of their situation and cause, unable to participate in the political developments of their own communities. In fact, his sense of alienation from his homeland and alienation from his government is a form of oppression that is equivalent to that caused by the Israeli colonial occupation. The Palestinians need a government that will free them instead of enslaving them.
When the elections are finally rescheduled, Fatah and Hamas will try again to monopolize the vote. The worst thing the Palestinian electorate could do is give them legitimacy again by voting for their candidates. This would only strengthen their positions and strengthen their authoritarianism, leaving the Palestinians in their current situation for years to come.
But this is not an inevitable result. Elections, despite all their fundamental shortcomings, can be an opportunity to transform the Palestinian political system, if approached differently.
Political forces seeking a genuine change in Palestinian politics should seek to distance the Palestinian public from the disastrous election of the status quo. They can encourage voters to punish the two dominant political powers and make room for the emergence of new political leaderships.
This would be the first step in holding them accountable at the grassroots level for undermining the Palestinian struggle. The impetus for punishment does not necessarily require Palestinians to vote for other lists in the election.
To demonstrate their rejection of the status quo, they can only issue invalid ballots that say “neither Fatah nor Hamas,” “no to a pathetic political regime,” “no to corruption,” or “no to division.” With these votes of confidence, the voices of the opposition can be consolidated in an act of resistance to expose government authorities and parties and send a clear message: “enough mess with our project and national future.” This would also be a fundamental rejection of the framework of the Oslo Accords and the political and governance regimes it created.
Rejectionist, confrontational and collective action requires exposing the authorities to the masses as a precondition for change. This electoral process can be used to point out to the public the failures of the government regime they suffer. It is an opportunity to change people’s attitudes and perceptions, which will necessarily lead, sooner or later, to a change in their actions.
For example, both Fatah and Hamas in their election campaigns promote themselves as “protectors of the Palestinian national project” through the discourse on “state-building” or the rhetoric of “resistance”. This is the time to expose both the fallacy of the notion of “national protector of the project,” as it serves only as a pathetic cover-up of all the damage and harm that both movements have caused to the Palestinians.
If a significant number decide to vote “no” to the status quo and vote as a statement of their unequivocal rejection of the current regime, we would reach a critical juncture in Palestinian politics. A new and effective Palestinian leadership could exploit it to move forward with reforms and begin to develop an inclusive, progressive and emancipatory Palestinian political system.
There is already political work done that could help the emergence of a new Palestinian political class, without loads of affiliations or partisan dependencies.
For example, there is the Generation for Democratic Renewal, a youth-led organization founded in February this year, which focuses on rebuilding the Palestinian political system on a democratic basis. The group is unable to contest the election due to various legal restrictions, so it has launched a virtual parliamentary list of young Palestinians presenting a progressive political agenda.
Following Abbas’s announcement of the postponement of the elections, the youth-led group said it would continue its initiative, aimed at being an “exercise in what democracy and political participation should be like.”
The generation for democratic renewal is not the first youth-centered democracy-focused initiative. It was preceded by a few others, which emerged during the 2011-12 Arab uprisings, such as Palestinians for Dignity.
The collective leadership and participatory model of these youth-led movements, as well as their vision for effective, legitimate and accountable Palestinian leadership, are foundations that the current political regime in Palestine lacks. The presence of these progressive ideas could help mobilize the Palestinian electorate away from traditional political forces.
It is important to note here that a genuine democratic transformation cannot be applied quickly. Political change in Palestine will be slow and would require a pragmatic plan of action and incremental and sustained efforts to carry it out. It would be built from the bottom up through popular awareness and mobilization.
This effort requires time, perseverance, sustainability, resilience and, of course, a willingness to face setbacks, which in turn requires drawing lessons from the experiences of past initiatives led by young people, especially when it comes to confronting structures. deeply rooted authoritarian and repressive.
Above all, it requires a commitment from the Palestinian public to reject the political status quo. This commitment can be demonstrated by a “no vote” in elections when they happen. This would be a significant first step towards a new democratic path for Palestine.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial stance of Al Jazeera.