Palestinian reality TV show shines light on democracy woes

This article by AP originally appeared in the Washington Post on 06/02/2016. Learn more about the project here.

RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) — The winner of this “election” for Palestinian president was a 24-year-old lawyer from east Jerusalem, who defeated a woman and a Christian from Bethlehem. But this was reality television — not real life — and the vote came on a TV show called “The President” that is meant to educate young Palestinians about politics.

In reality, Palestinians haven’t had a chance to cast an actual ballot for president in over a decade. […]

Maan, a local TV network, has been airing the show for the past six months. The program is funded by Search for Common Ground, a U.S. nonprofit group that promotes conflict resolution. The goal was to give young Palestinians an opportunity to practice running for office and voting for a candidate.

Suheir Rasul, the group’s local co-director, said the show was the only place where Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza and many other places can vote.

“Palestinian youth do not get the opportunity to engage with political leaders on this magnitude. This program is not just a TV show; it’s actually the only true democracy in practice,” she said.

It is the second time the Palestinians have held the contest. […]

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