The International Republican Institute (IRI) today hosted Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council from the Independent Palestine Coalition and Dr. Nader Said, Director of the Development Studies Programme at Birzeit University, for a discussion on democracy in Palestine and the recent elections.

In his remarks, Barghouthi highlighted the success of democracy in the West Bank and Gaza calling it a “democratic revolution” that has transformed the region and empowered the Palestinian people.  He recognized the January 2005 presidential election as the turning point in the democratic transformation followed by Palestinian Legislative Council elections in 2006.  Citing the lack of an independent judiciary and the rule-of-law, he was clear to point out that democracy is not just about elections and it is not a “finished business.”

Barghouthi also addressed the recent electoral success of Hamas as a result of three things – the failure of the peace process after a year of Fatah leadership, corruption with the government and Fatah, and the organization of Hamas in waging a grassroots campaign.  He did point out that “one cannot just accept democracy; you have to accept democratic forces too.”

Said followed with a presentation of two recent polls supported by IRI taken March 29 and April 19, 2006.  He pointed out that more than 78 percent of Palestinians support direct negotiations between Israel and Hamas.  Said also emphasized that more than 95 percent of Palestinians support regular and plural elections.  The results of the two polls cited by Said indicate that most Palestinians voted for Hamas based on an anti-corruption agenda.  The complete poll results can be seen at IRI-DSP Poll #25 Shows Overwhelming Majority of Palestinians Support Direct Negotiations with Israel.
In the 2005 Palestinian presidential election, Barghouthi garnered 20 percent of the vote, making him the most credible challenger to Fatah candidate Mahmoud Abbas.  In the January 2006 Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) elections, he headed the Independent Palestine Coalition, a group that sought to provide a democratic and independent alternative to the large majority of silent and unrepresented Palestinian voters.  Barghouthi is also Secretary General of Al Mubadara, a democratic opposition movement that favors a system of checks and balances, a strong judiciary, strong legislative powers, and a civilian police force.

Dr. Nader Said is the Director of the Development Studies Programme (DSP) at Birzeit University and the team leader for the human development report in Palestine.  He also serves as an advisor to a number of international and local institutions including the United Nations Development Programme.  He was educated in the United States with a Ph.D. in sociology.  Since his return to Palestine in 1993, Said has made significant contributions in the fields of human development, gender studies, survey research and opinion polling

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