[Allan Topol / AllanTopol.Com]
Lightning paced thriller writer
of International Intrigue
National Bestselling Author

The Election Dilemma
by Allan Topol, [IMAGE]2004


Photo Courtesy: Julie Zitin
[Allan Topol / AllanTopol.Com] It’s possible that January 2005 may be a great month for democracy in the Middle East. There may actually be two free elections in the Arab world. One for Iraqis and the other for Palestinians.

This was a concept that seemed inconceivable two years ago. The odds makers in Las Vegas who make book on everything would have set the odds for this double event high. Certainly a thousand to one. Maybe even a million. Yet both elections are now scheduled. Planning for their implementation is proceeding apace.

There’s still no certainty that either or both of these elections will actually occur. My Las Vegas bookmaker shouldn’t worry about going to the bank quite yet in preparation for a pay off.

To be sure, there are enormous differences between the Iraqi and Palestinian situations. In both, however, a hard core of militants may try, and even succeed, in blasting the freedom train off the tracks. But for now, militants, who can be called insurgents, terrorists or anarchists, it’s all the same, are on the defensive. They face a critical dilemma: do they boycott the elections and put all their eggs in the basket of derailing the political process? Or do they participate in the elections hoping for enough clout, because of their electoral support, in whatever government is established after January?

Their knee jerk reaction is undoubtedly to sow chaos and block the elections from ever occurring. However, militants read newspapers. Or at least in the Middle East they listen to Al Jezeera. They are well aware that elections took place in Afghanistan despite efforts by armed groups to block the process.

Those Palestinians from the Al Aksa brigade who began firing their guns when Mahmoud Abbas, a possible successor to Yasser Arafat, arrived at a service for Arafat on Sunday have given a preliminary indication of their intention. Two Palestinian security officers were killed in a burst of gunfire.

The Al Aksa gunmen were sending a clear message. Civil war rather than an election that puts Abbas in power. But cooler heads may yet prevail. The threat of being gunned down by their own terrorists may increase the popular will to compromise.

The much better organized and disciplined Hamas has shown itself to be more pragmatic than the Al Aksa hotheads. If the tent’s going to be constructed, it’s likely they’ll want to be inside as a part of the process.

There are thousands, perhaps millions of Palestinians who know that Arafat denied them statehood. They also understand what the route is for an independent state. It runs through elections followed by negotiations with Israel. That means surrendering the delusion of Israel’s destruction. Logically, the pragmatists should prevail. But this is the Middle East where logic often yields to emotion, the barrel of an AK-47, or political assassination.

Then there’s the question of foreign intervention. Will the Syrians, always unhelpful to the peace process, attempt to torpedo the election? The Iranians could try to do the same utilizing the Hezbollah proxies.

The Europeans could unwittingly upset the apple cart by showing support for Abbas and the other moderates before they are elected. Please restrain your enthusiasm for the Palestinian cause, Monsieur Chirac, by keeping quiet until after the elections.

In Iraq, it’s the Sunnis who are on the spot. Sure, it’s tough to go from being the ruling elite to a minority, which is what he Sunnis will be in the new Iraqi government which will be dominated after elections by the Shiite majority. On the other hand, there is no reason the Sunnis cannot be part of the government. At least they should give a pluralistic Iraqi government a chance.

The issue was unclear two weeks ago. It has become further muddled by the battle for Falluja.

To be sure there are foreign insurgents fighting in Iraq. However, there are also militant Sunnis who are battling the American and Iraqi forces.

The Sunni leadership may find it difficult to support elections. Not supporting them may be even worse for their position.

Like the Al Aksa brigade, the Sunni insurgents may now be a minority, but a thorny one to deal with. Let’s not lose sight of the fact, though, that the scheduled elections have put both on the defense. Albeit slowly and painfully, democracy may be making inroads in the Arab world. The issue is far from settled, but for the first time in history there is at least a question.