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Palestinian Elections - The Corruption Card

January 23, 2006

The Funding for Peace Coalition (FPC) views the elections, due to be held on January 25th 2006, as an essential step towards democracy for Palestinians. They hold the potential of reconciling some of the World Bank's basic demands on the Palestinian leadership in return for further funding.

A candidate party of particular interest to the FPC is the Third Way, comprised mainly of prominent academics and businessmen. Its leadership includes Salam Fayyad, a former finance minister, Hanan Ashrawi, a former Palestinian Authority spokeswoman, and businessman Khalid al-Asaili.

Al-Asaili explained the Third Way's platform to Aljazeera.

...to effect radical reform in all aspects of government and governance. We need to put an end to the state of chaos and lawlessness. We must combat and defeat corruption by enforcing the rule of law and reforming the justice system. We will also have to tackle the high rate of unemployment and introduce social security.

The Third Way's leadership is well positioned to assess how fraud led to the disappearance of millions in international aid. Fayyad is a respected international economist, formerly with the IMF. As Finance Minister, he spent 3 years attempting to recoup much of the wealth that had ended up in the hands of the Arafat family and partners.

Hanan Ashrawi has been a member of the Palestinian electoral elite for over a decade, often associated with Chairman Arafat. She is the founder of the Miftah NGO, an "independent institution committed to fostering the principles of democracy and effective dialogue...to ensure democratic practice, the rule of law and respect for human rights." Miftah's agenda has many critics, although Ashrawi has established a unique position as 'a Christian woman in an Islamic man's world'.

The Third Way claims to have compiled 16 reports on senior members of the Palestinian oligarchy including those in the security services, whom they believe to be swathed in pecuniary corruption. Just as with Miftah's agenda, these efforts seem admirable, particularly to those who wish to see a fairer society for the average Palestinian.

What remains to be seen are the true intent of this team. For example, in a recent interview, Ashrawi was reportedly asked how she felt about Suha Arafat living off the wealth of poor Palestinians. The response: "First, we must prove that she has this money...".

The FPC kindly suggests to Ms Ashrawi and others that she face the brutal facts. Arafat's wife was handed her money openly from the PA budget. There is little left to prove here.

Shouting out against corruption may sound politically correct. As an academic from a preacher's family, Ms Ashwari will do well to recall that history - biblical and modern - is littered with characters whose protests were soon exposed for their true worth.

Ms Ashrawi knows full well that one of the main causes of present day Palestinian poverty is poor leadership; an entourage of entrenched statesmen, who were concerned for themselves before others. After all, this is the basis of her electoral platform, as well a successful plug of Hamas. It is time to find the courage and honesty to make such an admission.

Until then, such electoral quips will only force donors to the Palestinian cause to doubt whether her authentic agenda is one of change, or to merely to ensure that her troupe continues to find a role in Ramallah after the elections.


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