Editor’s note: WorldNetDaily spoke today with PA presidential candidate Abdelhaleem Ashqar, who ran as an independent against Fatah front-runner Mahmoud Abbas. Exit polls show Ashqar coming in third out of seven candidates.
WND: Are you disappointed you lost?
Ashqar: I am disappointed in the low turn out of the elections. Media reports say the turnout was high because 70 percent of registered voters came to the booths. But most Palestinians weren’t registered. The press isn’t telling you this, but according to the Palestinian Bureau of Statistics, only 50 percent of those eligible actually voted.
Abdelhaleem Ashqar campaign poster.
WND: Why do you think that is?
Ashqar: For one thing, the media portrayed it that Abbas was going to win by a landslide, so many people figured they don’t even need to bother to vote. Palestinian citizens just weren’t compelled to get out there. Also, Hamas and Islamic Jihad led a boycott of the elections, and that effected things very negatively.
WND: Do you think you ran a good campaign?
Ashqar: I raised many good issues, mainly about reform of the education system, economy, health care, social services. I called for real separation of powers between the various branches of the government. I wanted all Palestinian affiliations to participate in the government’s decision making process. And I emphasized the importance of reaching a peaceful settlement with Israel, and ending the suffering of the Palestinians in the territories and around the world.
WND: Overall, were the elections fair and democratic?
Ashqar: They were democratic. Certainly the most democratic thing so far. But the Israelis didn’t much help in the elections. They didn’t allow permits for some candidates. The checkpoints remained as they have been. They didn’t allow most Jerusalem residents to vote within Jerusalem. Only 5,000 out of 120,000 could vote in Jerusalem, the rest were told they had to travel to the territories. And Israel didn’t let the candidates campaign in Jerusalem until the last minute.
WND: We’re still waiting for official conformation, but Mahmoud Abbas obviously won by a large margin. What do you think of Abbas, and the future of the PA?
Ashqar: In some respects, Abbas holds certain different perspectives from Arafat, but he was clearly elected as a continuation of Arafat. Abbas emphasized the same things as Arafat – a final settlement with no less than the entire West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem, the right of return for all refugees. And when it comes to the economy and actual reform and democratization of the Palestinian Authority, Abbas is as bad as Arafat. There will be no change. No transparency, or separation of powers. No democracy. Just more of the same.