Ramallah: The “Independent Palestine” coalition announced its intention to run in upcoming Legislative Council elections, at a press conference held today in Ramallah.
The newly-formed coalition is made up of independents, business leaders, academics, writers, women, youth, labour movements, and the Palestinian National Initiative (PNI, or “Al Mubadara”), from the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. It also draws on widespread, popular support at the grassroots level.
The conference was led by Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi of the PNI, who also heads the Independent Palestine coalition. Other speakers included Mr. Raja Shehadeh, on behalf of Dr. Haider Abdel Shafi, and PLC member Rawia Al-Shawa. The coalition was also represented at the conference by Mr. Kamal Hassouna, head of the Palestinian Businessmen Association, Dr. Allam Jarrar, Mr. Mohammad Masroujeh, Ms. Haifa Baramki, and Mr. Ziad Amr, head of the General Union of the Disabled, amongst others.
The coalition was formed in response to the leadership vacuum plaguing the Palestinian political sphere. It aims to provide the majority of unrepresented, silent and undecided Palestinian voters with a “third way”: a democratic alternative to the current bi-polar options presented by Hamas and Fatah. As such, the coalition has the potential to seize a substantial share of the democratic opposition vote away from Hamas.
Tired of empty slogans, the Independent Palestine coalition seeks to provide the Palestinian people with a strong, capable and optimistic leadership, and to give them back their hope for freedom, peace and security.
Its election platform focuses on the following key issues:
- An end to the occupation in all its manifestations, including the dismantlement of the Apartheid Wall and all illegal settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem; freedom for Palestinian political prisoners who continue to be held in Israeli jails; and a and a just and durable peace for Palestinians. To this end, the coalition is calling for an international peace conference to be held in order to revive the process towards resolving the conflict;
- Total internal reform, including an end to corruption, nepotism and political patronage; building efficient, democratic, modern and transparent institutions; ensuring good governance through the actual separation of powers between the executive, judiciary and legislative branches; and enforcing the rule of law;
- The complete overhaul of the numerous security forces towards the creation of a professional service that ensures greater security for ordinary Palestinians; and
- Social justice and the alleviation of poverty through socio-economic development policies that benefit the Palestinian people.
Dr. Barghouthi emphasised the importance of Legislative elections to the development of a genuine Palestinian democracy, but pointed out that certain standards must be set in order to ensure that they are truly democratic:
- The free movement of campaigners and voters in East Jerusalem must be guaranteed by the Israeli authorities;
- Palestinian prisoners held in Israel jails, many of whom are under administrative detention, must be able to exercise their right to vote;
- A fair and transparent system of funding to political parties must be established. Only political parties that form part of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, formed 41 years ago, are eligible to receive funding for their political activities, while decisions on the distribution of funding bear no relation to levels of support reflected through votes. Political parties are also not required to submit financial audits declaring their sources of funding, casting doubt over their independence;
- The media must be impartial and independent, and reporting should be free from any interference by the government; and
- The safety and security of Palestinian voters must be ensured, and the disruption of the voting process through violence must also be prevented.