- Published on Monday, 23 July 2012 12:04
By Hugo van Randwyck/ London
A number of Palestinians have been calling for the restarting of the PNC (Palestine National Council), to help with unity, including refuges and diaspora, new skills, new ideas, new negotiators, the Right fo Return, amongst many ideas. So what would a Palestine Parliament - in current exile - look like, and how could it be developed to help Palestinians? There are many questions, some that could also be answered after an initial election, with a new election a year later with referendums on options.
Q. How many seats would you like in the Palestinian Parliament? To give a voice to all Palestinians, including refugees and diaspora? How many? 200 or maybe 240? or less or more? With the current difficulty of getting agreement with the 132 in the PA, do Palestinians want more than 300?
Q What voting system would you prefer for electing representatives?
At the moment the PLC, Palestine Legislative Council has 132 elected representatives. With 66 seats chosen by town/constituency with majority of votes, and 66 seats in proportion of total votes for a party. Would people prefer, for example, that 80% of representatives were elected according to constituency, and 20% from a party list proportinal representation? Would people prefer proportional representation lists for the whole country or for the district? Or how about STV (Single Transferable Vote) for multi-member constutuencies in a district, e.g. 5 seats in a constituency, with 5 choices per voter? There may be no perfect system, and it would be a compromise, and a trial of a system, to see if people feel they are getting good politicians.
Q. Would you like the first Parliament to have 4 years before new elections, or maybe new elections within 1 year? With 1 year between elections, it would help the elected politicians to work together, since they may lose seats at the next election if they are not producing results.
Q. Would you like to have one decision making body of representatives, or 2, as in other countries? If you would like a second group of representatives, would they be only for adding advice, or could they block legislation? If they are for advice, would you want them elected, or appointed based on skills and sectors, e.g. business skills, religious, lawyers, judges, education, agriculture, health, clan/family leaders, military, police, transport, environment?
Q. How would you like the refugees and diaspora to vote? Using Out of Country Voting (OCV), with the assistance of the IOM (International Organisation of Migration), with international observers and media? Or other ways? If you google: 'Out of Country Voting workshop', you'll see a report of a workshop in Romania looking at lessons learnt from including overseas diaspora and refugees, both registration and voting - voting in-person, postal voting, proxy voting and electronic voting. Would you like refugees to vote for people to represent their camps/current countries or would you prefer towns/disticts of origin? Would you like voter registration cards? With current address only, or also with town/district of origin, e.g. Haifa, Acre, Jaffa? Would you like the ability to have in-person voting? Woud you also like the ability to have election recounts, if there are challenges? What voting process would get the highest turnout?
Q. Would refugees and diaspora prefer to put their voting papers into 1 box at polling centres around the world, or have a choice of 16 to place their votes, with a box for each district, e.g. Haifa, Nazareth, Jerusalem, Jaffa, Acre, Beisan, Safed, Tulkarm, Nablus, Jenin, Jaffa, Ramleh, Ramallah, Hebron, Gaza, Beersheba - written in English and Arabic, for the world media to see?
Q. Would you like the ability to organise referendums? By petition? Would the results be binding or non-binding, i.e. if there is a 'Yes' vote, it goes straight into law, or it is still up to politicians to listen and decide to make it law.
Q. Would you like a strong Presidency who can dismiss a Prime Minister, or a figure head Presidency, with a stonger Prime Minister who can be dismissed by Parliament and/or the voters?
Q. Would you like 'term limits for key roles'? For example a maximum of 8 years for President and 8 years for Prime Minister? Or can they stay in the role as long as they get voted in?
Q. How do we calculate the seats for each district, for the first electon, until a census has been organised? Do we use the pre-1948 % split of population as start? So the percent split by district could be used for calculating the seats in the first election. An approximate calculation using numbers from the Palestine Remembered website:
Total Palestinian population = 1,236150
Safed = 49800, 4%; Acre = 70570, 5.7%; Tiberias = 27830, 2.3%; Beisan = 17360, 1.4%; Nazareth = 41930, 3.4%; Haifa = 134430, 10.9%; Jenin = 61210, 5%; Nablus = 94600, 7.7%; Tulkarm = 76860 6.2%; Ramallah = 48930, 4%; Jerusalem = 150750, 12.2%; Hebron = 92820,7.5%; Jaffa = 114130, 9.2%; Ramla = 101440, 8.2%; Gaza = 147000, 11.9%; Beersheba = 6490, 0.5%
So if there were 200 seats for electing representatives, then you just double the numbers/percents above to get the seats for each district. In most cases, if people wanted, you can have a split of majority for constituency and also proportional representation, except Beersheba which would be one or the other. Any other ideas?
Q. What areas would be the reponsibility of the districts and the national government? For example: health, education, environment, local policing, more.
Q. Would you like to use the first registration opportunity, to also have a preliminary census? For example, remove the word 'voter' for under 18s, and have a card with a heading 'Palestine Registration Card' , with name, photo, town and district of origin?
Q. What would you like newly elected representatives to do in the first year after elections? Maybe, ensure any Palestinan refugees and diaspora not registered are registered, a full census is done, allocate representatives to countries to liaise with governments on Palestinian issues, also camp issues, speak to governments around the world for recognition of the pro-democracy initiative and support for results? What else?
Q. What sort of questions would you like in early referendums? That would let the world know your opinions? For example: Q. Do you believe Palestinian refugees and diaspora have the Right of Return to Palestine?
These questions and others, Palestinians can talk about, discuss and form opnions, on online media, blogs, newspapers, radio and TV - these are possible ways forward - also in refugee camps, associations and other ways.
All these questions above are about a positive vison and future for Palestinians, how to develop a winning team, who work for all Palestinians. How to get the best and most able and motivated to help Palestinians everywhere. Communicating better with the Western media and also Western politicians. Letting all the 'voting voices' be heard. There are many opportunities that a Palestinian Parliament/PNC, representing all Palestinians can help with to improve the lives of Palestinians. This would also be a pro-democracy initiative to help the world 'see and hear' the Palestinian side of the story.
Hugo van Randwyck is an implementation consultant, who has travelled to Israel/Palestine, Jordan, Egypt, Syria and the Lebanon, on holiday and also visited Sabra Shatilla. He feels the media in the West rarely sees or hears the refugees and diaspora and that the Out of Country Voting, showing town, district and country of origin, will help in communicating better with the public in the world. He has been conributing ideas about Out of Country Voting to a Facebook page: