Thoughts on South African and international politics and culture

Monday, January 10, 2005

Victory for Abbas
It is testament to the strength of the Palestinians' desire for change that so many voters turned out in yesterday's presidential election. Under threat of violence from Hamas and other militant groups, and without much incentive as Abbas was very likely to win in a landslide, 71% of eligible voters turned out to cast their ballots. With most pundits expecting a turnout more in the region of 40%, it notably gives Mahmoud Abbas more of a mandate to lead the Palestinians to peaceful change.

Some comments were made by Abbas in the last day of campaigning Sunday, where he called Israel the "Zionist enemy", but this was mere election grandstanding to appeal to the more radical edge of Palestinian support. Abbas has committed himself to peaceful change and the fulfilling of the road map, and the support, probably of more that 65% of Palestinians, gives him the ability to make bold steps to reshape the Middle East. The enduring question will be however, whether he can gain the respect, and the control, of Hamas and other militants within the Palestine. Without their cooperation, it will be a bumpy ride.