Palestinian premier turns to Facebook for advice

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

RAMALLAH - Acting Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad is using Facebook to ask young Palestinians whom they would like to see in the new government that he is forming.

“In your opinion, in light of the ongoing discussion to form a government, who is the person you believe is trustworthy and has leadership and distinguished scientific skills that could be relied on to be given a ministerial portfolio? Name the place and the person,” Fayyad asked in a post on his personal Facebook page Wednesday.

In just a few hours, the post had drawn more than 700 comments.

Fayyad’s unusual move comes as pro-democracy protests spurred on by the popular social network and other websites are spreading across the Middle East.

Fayyad submitted his resignation to Mahmoud Abbas last week, and was immediately asked by the Palestinian president to form a new government, ahead of possible new parliamentary and legislative elections by September.

Those elections, announced earlier this month as the Middle East unrest was growing, are, however, in doubt after Abbas clarified he would not be able to go ahead with them if Hamas did not cooperate. The Islamist movement running Gaza has said it will not.

One comment to Fayyad’s Facebook post said Palestinians would like to see young people in the government.

Another read: “Thank you prime minister for your interest in the youth. I hope you will keep this page open for discussion, not only to form the government, but also to listen to us.”

The strong response prompted Fayyad to add a second post later Wednesday, in which he acknowledged “the importance of the role of the youth in political life”. He also asked about the demands young Palestinians had on what they would like to be included in the next government’s programme.

His posts prompted mostly positive reactions. But one said: “This is not how it works dear Fayyad. Free elections will do, but apparently the guys who decide on our destiny were not happy with that, so do not post deluding posts that claim to show democracy.”

The Hamas-dominated Palestinian parliament has never ratified Fayyad’s nomination, nor his cabinet, amid an ongoing Palestinian power struggle that erupted when the Islamist group beat Abbas’ secular Fatah party in the last legislative elections in 2006. Abbas, of Fatah, himself was elected in separate presidential elections a year earlier.

The power struggle culminated with Hamas seizing sole control of Gaza in 2007, leaving Abbas and his Palestinian Authority (PA) in control of the West Bank only.

Both Abbas’ and the parliament’s four-year terms have ended, but so far, he has been unable to pull off new elections because of the Gaza-West Bank split.

Amid the unrest in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and elsewhere, the PA has attempted to show a willingness to implement changes and reform, among others by announcing the new elections.

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