Tuesday, February 08, 2005

The question of legitimacy 

This morning, while looking through the newspapers, I saw this picture...

...and it got me thinking.

The new Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, has won a
"landslide" victory in the January election, polling 62.3% of the vote in the turnout of about 66%. Hamas, the most powerful political force in Palestinian politics boycotted the poll; it refused to field candidates and called on its members and supporters not to participate. Hamas did not, however, demand that other Palestinians don't vote, nor did it threaten election violence. Subsequently, Hamas contested local elections in Gaza and has won around two third of the seats, clearly demonstrating its political clout (Abbas's candidates won less than a quarter of the seats).

Just about everyone in the world considers the January Palestinian elections to have been reasonably fair and legitimate, and President Abbas to be the legitimate leader of the Palestinian people.

Meanwhile, somewhat to the east of the West Bank and Gaza, the new Iraqi prime minister, most likely a Shia politician, would have also won a landslide victory, probably polling around 60% of the vote out of the turnout of also around 60%. Most (though by no means all) Sunnis, who clearly represent a minority of Iraqi voters, decided to boycott the election. The extremists among that community also conducted a violent campaign against the election and the voters.

Today, questions linger about the legitimacy of the new Iraqi leaders who were elected without the participation of a minority religious group.

Go figure.


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