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University of Iowa News Release

Jan. 11, 2005

Wing Says Abbas Election A Good First Step For Palestinian Democracy

Adrien Wing, a University of Iowa law professor and expert on Palestinian issues, said the recent election of Mahmoud Abbas as the new president of the Palestinian Authority is a good first step in laying the groundwork for a true democracy.

"They appear to have carried out an actual democratic election and they have done it with only a few minor incidents," said Wing, the Bessie Dutton Murray professor of law. "That's very unusual in the Arab world, especially one that's occupied by a foreign country, and I hope it bodes well for future elections."

However, Wing is less optimistic that Abbas will be able to both pull together the Palestinians' many divided factions and negotiate a peace settlement with Israel. Although Abbas has promised to resume peace negotiations, many Palestinian groups may prefer to resume a violent direction, including Hamas, which called for a boycott of this election. Israeli leaders will also be skeptical about resuming negotiations unless Abbas demonstrates he can control Palestinian militia groups. Wing expects that some militia forces may stay quiet for a while until Abbas sets his course, but won't hesitate to resume violence if they don't like the direction.

Abbas received 62 percent of the vote on Sunday over seven other challengers to replace Yasser Arafat as president of the Palestinian Authority. He was officially declared the winner Monday.

Wing is a UI law professor and has 22 years of experience with the Palestinian issue. A constitutional law expert, she advised the Palestinian Legislative Council as it wrote the Basic Law. Wing said she believes the election is a crossroads moment for the Palestinians, one important step in the long road toward a potential democracy. The alternative may be civil war as well as continued war with Israel.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Service, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Tom Snee, 319-384-0010, tom-snee@uiowa.edu.