hail democratic poll,
but some losers feel intimidated.
the money changer is sitting at his desk just off Manara Square
in the centre of the West Bank city of Ramallah-- a day after
the Palestinian presidential elections that swept Fatah candidate
Mahmoud Abbas into office.
changing a few hundred shekels with him, I remark: "So
you voted for Bassam, did you?"
did you know?" Abu Muhammad snaps.
is a look of slight panic on his face, until he follows my
glance up to the large poster of Palestine People's Party
candidate Bassam Salhi on the wall behind him.
yes, that," he says grinning.
PPP posters Abu Muhammad had in his shop window have now all
been taken down and folded up on a shelf near the door.
have been the most open and transparent election the Arab
world has seen in years, but supporters of losing candidates
don't seem to be taking any chances now the results are out.
as Manara Square is bustling with overconfident young men
wearing trademark black and white kuffiya shawls and cravats
of Fatah round their necks, chatting and smoking in the icy
bedecked with pictures of the winner also known as Abu Mazen
have been driving around Ramallah hooting their horns. Fatah
gunmen have been walking the streets, firing in the air. Expensive
European-made cars fly little Palestinian flags.
Abu Muhammad says he is happy with the election, despite his
candidate polling just 2.5% of the vote.
people have chosen their preferred candidate. It is a golden
result," he says, with absolute sincerity.
doesn't seem to be shared by supporters of the best-performing
opposition candidate, human rights activist Mustafa Barghouti
- who got nearly 20% of the vote.
in the Bireh district that I visited last Saturday, which
had two large posters of Mustafa Barghouti and Yasser Arafat
up in the window, now only has Yasser Arafat.
were among several Barghouti supporters I met before the election
who said that they only wanted to be identified as such "after
are definitely not saying anything on the record.
it's because Dr Barghouti actually took votes from Abu Mazen,
but you can almost feel the sense of triumphalism among Fatah
supporters that their well-oiled political machine delivered
hundreds of thousands of votes more than the independent candidate.
the ultra-loyal street urchins - who all claim to have voted,
by the way - can be overheard talking about that "bastard"
who should never have challenged Abu Mazen.
At the Bilqis perfume store, Zakaria is testing some perfume
on the back of his hand that he wants to buy for his wife.
The thumb is stained dark by the once-purple paint used to
stop electors trying to vote twice on Sunday.
him who he voted for and he said no-one, he just put an unmarked
voting slip in the box to register his complaint about the
insists the turnout was embarrassingly low, just 775,000 of
a possible... well no-one knows exactly how many Palestinian
electors there are, anything between 1.2m and 2m, and only
483,000 of those voted for Abu Mazen.
though, I get chatting to a cleancut young man who tells me
earnestly that he is very proud of the poll, though he is
sceptical that Abu Mazen will be any more capable of advancing
the cause of peace with Israel than his predecessor.
have shown the rest of the Arab World that we can have a free
and fair election and choose our leaders democratically,"
the runner-up's supporters felt a bit less intimidated by
the victors, it would be even better.
Asser works with BBC News, Ramallah.
(R) thedailystar.net 2004