Academic journal article The Middle East Journal

Palestine and Palestinians: The Palestinian Regime: A "Partial Democracy"

Academic journal article The Middle East Journal

Palestine and Palestinians: The Palestinian Regime: A "Partial Democracy"

Article excerpt

The Palestinian Regime: A "Partial Democracy", by As'ad Ghanem. Foreword by Naseer Atari. Brighton, UK and Portland, OR: Sussex Academic Press, 2001. xv + 153 pages. Appends. to p. 212. Notes to p. 240. Index to p. 252. $65.

As the Intifada passes its first anniversary, it is sometimes easy to forget that issues beyond the survival of the Palestinian Authority once existed. They did however, and once the current fighting dies down, they will resurface again. The issue of Palestinian democracy will be paramount, no matter what form the Palestinian Authority eventually takes.

The signing of the Declaration of Principles in Washington on September 13, 1993 made the prospect of eventual Palestinian statehood probable, if not inevitable. Exactly what form a Palestinian state would take was another matter. Since 1993, many critics have condemned the Palestinian Authority for being too repressive, whilst others have criticized it for not being repressive enough. However, few observers have examined what determined the form of the Palestinian Authority. In his book The Palestinian Regime: A "Partial Democracy," As'ad Ghanem sets out to do precisely this.

Unfortunately, in the first half of this book, Ghanem achieves little more than outlining the Palestinian historical narrative. His examination of Yasir `Arafat's control of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and civil society in the Occupied Territories lends little new insight into the democratic, or undemocratic, underpinnings of the Palestinian Authority. Additionally, the formal structure of powers in the authority, which Ghanem sees as a positive factor towards democratization, follows strictly the outline of the Oslo agreements. Discussions arguing whether or not the structure and power distribution follow what was laid out in the agreements, have been recorded in numerous volumes of literature since the Palestinian Authority was established in 1994.

It is not until the second half of the book that Ghanem really hits his stride. He argues that the Palestinian Authority is neither democracy nor dictatorship, but rather a "partial democracy" with characteristics from both sides. Significantly, when examining the first Palestinian general election, Ghanem stresses that the elections were "founding elections," and that is how they must be judged, not as an indicator of the nature of the voting system or the ability of the Palestinian Authority to develop into a democratic or dictatorial system. …

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