The world has had nearly two weeks to take stock of Hamas' victory in the Palestinian legislative elections over the incumbent Fatah Party. As one would expect, the election result has been seen as a major blow to the concept of democracy. Sadly, given President Bush's apparent determination to advance democracy wherever he can (except for Communist China), his opponents have seized upon this to besmirch him, and have besmirched democracy itself in the process.
This is where those of us in the anti-Communist community come in, for Palestine's vote has caused us collateral damage. In most of the world, the anti-Communist cause goes by the "pro-democracy" label. This includes Hong Kong, where the largest and oldest anti-Communist Party is the Hong Kong Democratic Party. As such, the fate of modern anti-Communism is in no small way tied to how democracy is perceived, and the Palestinian result has caused many "realists" to question the entire notion of democracy improving the fate of nations where it currently does not exist. Even the "Hitler was elected" myth (more on that later) has been recycled.
So, upon seeing the reports of the results, I took the liberty of examining the options the Palestinian voters had, in order to better determine why they voted for terrorists. What I found, counter to the conventional wisdom, was this: they had no choice.
The Palestinian election was held in two simultaneous phases, on two separate ballots. One ballot, for 66 seats, was by proportional representation (PR); the more votes a party gets nationwide, the higher percentage of the 66 seats they win. The other ballot was for individual candidates in several multi-seat districts, also totaling 66 seats. In this ballot, the top vote-getting candidates are elected, except for certain seats designated to Christians (they went to the highest vote-getters among Christian candidates - all of these seats went to Fatah).
On the PR side, the three biggest parties were Hamas, Fatah, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. All three of them have a long history of supporting terrorism. Fatah, the party co-founded by the late Yassir Arafat, was the driving force behind the Palestine Liberation Organization's terror war against Israel, and is today the political home of the suicide bomber force known as the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade (BBC). The PFLP has an equally long history of violence against Israelis (BBC). The other "major" lists included Independent Palestine, whose leader, Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, publicly endorsed the recent violent "intifada" (Palestine Monitor), and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a terrorist off-shoot of the PFLP (BBC). The closest thing to an anti-terrorist party on the ballot was the Third Way, and they couldn’t even run half a slate; only 25 candidates were on its list.
For the district ballots, the situation was even worse. The only parties represented there were Hamas, Fatah, and the PFLP. Third Way was nowhere to be found. Thus, the only choice for a Palestinian looking to elect a government were corrupt, inefficient, secular-nationalist, tyrannical terrorist group (Fatah), a Taliban-like tyrannical terrorist group (Hamas), and a Marxist-Leninist tyrannical terrorist group (PFLP).
In fact, up until the last week of the election, the only way a Palestinian could vote against terror was not to vote at all. Sadly, even that option was hijacked three days prior to the vote by the terrorist group Islamic Jihad (Malaysia Star).
Why were the terrorists so amply represented on the ballot box, while non-terrorists were practically absent? For that, we need to remember how the Palestinian authority governed. The last "election" held in Palestine was nearly ten years ago, and Arafat made sure the "right" people were the victors. Meanwhile, the political climate in Palestine remains far from ideal. Both Fatah and Hamas had issued death threats against journalists (Media Channel) during the campaign. Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch lamented the sorry state of affairs:
conditions of lawlessness have increased in the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank in 2005. Palestinian gunmen carried out several assassinations against persons alleged to have collaborated with Israeli security forces, and fighting between various Palestinian factions, security services and armed groups has led to armed clashes on the streets, vigilante killings and even the kidnapping of foreigners on several occasions in Gaza.
HRW also noted "the notorious Palestinian security or military courts where minimum standards of due process are not met." This in a report that focused most of its attention on the role of the occupying Israeli army, which nearly every Palestinian terrorist has used as an excuse to justify their brutality. In fact, notwithstanding Israel’s actions, the Palestinian government has had its own troubles with the rule of law, to say nothing of the violent terrorist groups that support and oppose it.
This may have been an election, but it was far from free or fair. When the incumbent party governs as a tyrannical regime, and has its own terrorist force to boot, the only dissenters who can achieve nationwide resistance are fellow terrorists. Thus it should be no surprise that terrorists practically monopolized the ballot.
Therefore, the Palestinian did not vote for terrorists, because they had no way to vote against terrorists. Whatever part of the blame for this belongs to successive Israel governments - and that question this quarter does not seek to answer - does not change the fact that this election was not democratic in any true sense of the word.
As for Adolf Hitler, it should be noted that he was not given a parliamentary majority by the German voters. In fact, the Social Democrats and the Communists were preparing to form a coalition to govern Germany and freeze the Nazis out, until Josef Stalin ordered the Communists to let Hitler take power in the hope that a pro-Soviet revolution would follow. The only "election" Hitler ever won had one voter, and Stalin was no German.