Annan says Palestinian elections show voters want incorrupt governments

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Secretary General Kofi Annan said Thursday that Hamas’ victory in the Palestinian elections should send a lesson to rulers and politicians in the Mideast and the world that voters want stable governments that are not corrupt and can serve their people.
Annan said he didn’t view Hamas’ success and recent election gains by the Islamic Brotherhood in Egypt and religious parties in Iraq as a rejection of secular parties in favour of Islamic parties in the Middle East.

“I think if the regimes in power were seen to be delivering, were seen to be close to the people, I am sure the results would have been quite different,” the secretary general told reporters in response to a question about the wider significance of the success of Islamic parties in the region.

Annan stressed again that no one can anticipate the results of democratic elections.

The results in Egypt, the Palestinian territories and elsewhere show that Islamic groups were well organised, he said.

And in the case of the Palestinians, Hamas has had a record of offering social services, of being organised and disciplined, “and of not being corrupt.” “What were the people voting for? Were they voting for a clean government? Were they voting for peace? Were they voting for a stable environment in which their kids could go to school? Or were they voting for the Hamas manifesto?,” Annan asked, referring to the document that calls for Israel’s destruction.

“My sense is that they were voting for a peaceful and stable and well organised Palestine,” he said. “So it’s a lesson and a message for all rulers and politicians in the region, and everywhere in the world, that people want good government, and they will vote for people that they believe will offer that.” “I am not ready to accept that it is a total rejection of secular movements and a total swing to Islamic parties,” Annan said.

The secretary general planned to discuss the outcome of the Palestinian election and Israel’s upcoming elections later Thursday with acting Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. Annan was also expected to discuss the statement adopted on January 30 by the so-called Quartet of would-be Mideast peacemakers — the United Nations, the United States, the European Union and Russia — at a meeting in London which the secretary general attended.

The Quartet called for a return to the roadmap plan to Mideast peace it drafted, which envisions two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace. It also said that future aid to a Hamas government “would be reviewed by donors against that government’s commitment” to renounce violence and recognise Israel.

Annan urged Hamas during the three-month transition before it takes over the government to listen to the appeals not just from the Quartet members but from the region to transform itself into a political party and honour all the obligations that the Palestinian Authority entered into including accepting the two-state solution.

“I hope that eventually that is the direction they will go,” he said.

But Hamas’ exiled political chief Khaled Mishaal, who is based in the Syrian capital Damascus, reiterated Wednesday that Hamas would not bow to Arab and international pressure to recognise Israel and prevent attacks on Israeli targets once in power.

The secretary general also alluded to the wary international reaction to Hamas’ victory and the questions it raised about the future financing of the Palestinian Authority, which is effectively broke.

In 2005, overseas donors contributed about $1 billion of the authority’s budget. The total budget is estimated variously at between $1.6 billion and $1.9 billion, with huge shortfalls every year.

“They need desperately assistance on the financial and economic front, and we are doing whatever we can to help,” Annan said.

Former World Bank president James Wolfensohn, the Quartet’s envoy, is talking to governments to ensure that the transitional government has sufficient resources, he said.

As for financial help after the transition, Annan noted that there are many examples around the world of armed movements transforming themselves into political parties “and I urge Hamas to go the same route.”

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