[Concerning the CNS story below: “PA To US: Keep Your Hands Off Our Election Law!”, the time has come to provide the American people with the account of how Arafat was “elected” as president of the PA in the first place, in January 1996.
Our news agency was contracted at the time to cover that election by the international observers team who followed the election, and we dispatched a Palestinian crew to follow Arafat during his election camapign.
We soon discovered and reported that Arafat had made a rule that nobody was allowed to run in the PA elections without Arafat’s express written approval.
As a matter of fact, Arafat would not allow Dr. Haim Abdel Shefi, who had headed the Palestinian Arab delegation in Madrid in 1991, to run. After all, he would have been a strong candidate. When a bomb blew up near Dr. Shefi’s home, he indeed withdrew his candidacy. So Arafat ran against an unknown school teacher and won 78% of the vote.
After the election results were announced, we asked the head of the US observer team to the elections, Mr. Jimmy Carter, for his reaction to Arafat’s “elections rules”.
Carter only said that “we seem to have problems like that in Chicago”.
So much for nascent Palestinian democracy – DSB]

Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) – Palestinian Authority officials have told the Bush administration to mind its own business when it comes to Palestinian election law, a PA official said on Friday.

PA Minister Saeb Erekat, who led a delegation of Palestinian ministers to Washington two weeks ago, said he refused to even listen to an American proposal regarding Palestinian elections.

“We asked the Americans to be part of an international steering committee [on the elections],” Erekat said in a telephone interview.

That meant the Americans – along with the European Union, Canada and Japan – would oversee such things as voter registration, campaigning, and the use of media in the campaign. The oversight committee would also prevent voter intimidation.

But when the Americans wanted to discuss more substantial issues, the conversation ended abruptly.

“I sensed in the States, that they wanted to touch on the election law,” Erekat said. “I refused to discuss it. It is the Palestinians’ business. It’s none of their business.”

Erekat said he could not be sure what the American proposal was, but he believed it to be based on the Japanese model of 1945, where the citizens would elect a parliament, which would appoint a prime minister. The role of president would then become merely titular.

President Bush angered the Palestinian people in June when he urged them to elect a new leadership “not compromised by terror.” Although he did not mention PA Chairman Yasser Arafat by name, the reference to getting rid of the PA leader was clear enough.

Israel has said it will no longer deal with Arafat. One of the suggestions for making the transition has been to “promote” Arafat to more of a figurehead position and appoint a prime minister who would actually rule. But most experts doubt that Arafat will never relinquish power.

Palestinian elections are scheduled for the end of January. According to opinion polls, Arafat is a clear frontrunner. This piece ran on the CNS wire on August 25th, 2002