Mahmoud Abbas' Assault on Palestinian Democracy

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When Mahmoud Abbas won the January 2005 Palestinian Authority presidential elections, it was truly historic. Never before had Palestinians held free and fair elections. It was a good sign of better things to come.

Fifteen years later, Abbas is still in power, in the fifteenth year of his four-year term. Democracy is dead, as is the Palestinian legislature, which has been dissolved. Abbas has blamed Hamas -- which might win the elections -- and defense against Israel as his reasons for clinging to power. In reality, Abbas has acted like a petty dictator since taking office, stifling dissent, jailing protesters, and using torture to intimidate. As Elliott Abrams concludes at the Council on Foreign Relations website:

As Abbas marks his anniversary in power, those who had hoped for positive political evolution in the Palestinian territories can only mourn the way he has governed, especially in the last decade. He has outlawed politics in the West Bank. Under the guise of fighting Hamas, he has outlawed any criticism of the corrupt Fatah rule and prevented any debate on the Palestinian future. Just as Arafat soon eliminated all independent institutions when he returned to the Palestinian territories in 1994, Abbas has crushed the hopes that arose--after Arafat’s death in 2004 and his own election in 2005--for a democratic future for Palestinians.

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