Palestinians Elect a New President (on a Reality TV Show)

This article by Diaa Hadid originally appeared in the New York Times on 06/03/2016.

JERUSALEM — “Mr. President!” a woman called out to Waad Qannam at a rally last week in East Jerusalem. “We want you to represent us!” The crowd cheered passionately, even though Mr. Qannam was actually running for president on a reality television show.

In the United States, a reality television star is the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. For Palestinians, it’s the other way around: A candidate chosen on a television show is the closest they have come to an elected leader in more than 10 years.

“This is just a show,” acknowledged Mr. Qannam, one of three contestants who made it to Thursday night’s finale of “The President.” “But people are hungry for a leader.”

The show, now in its second season, began with 24 contestants culled from more than 1,200 applicants who had to take a series of exams on Palestinian politics, international law, development and gender equality. Each week, contestants shadowed a Palestinian minister or business person, then told a panel of judges what they had learned and how they would improve on the job. […] […] “The President” — broadcast on the Maan satellite network to large audiences in Gaza, the West Bank and elsewhere in the Arab world — was funded mostly by a State Department grant to Search for Common Ground, a nongovernmental group that focuses on conflict resolution. […]

Read the full article HERE.