Written by: Dr. Ibrahim Rabaya - Academic and researcher in politics and international relations

In May 2021, Palestine was on the verge of having a unique political event: the legislative elections. More than one million youth were supposed to exercise their right to vote for the first time. This prompted an unprecedented state of momentum, discussions and dialogues. The formation of electoral lists resulted in a controversy on the positions and the youth’s roles in Palestinian political life. This momentum was not surprising in light of the frozen state. The political participation channels have been in since the last legislative elections, which occurred in 2006.

With the indefinite postponing of the elections, the Palestinian youth’s ambitions of participating and having political representation with the rest of the Palestinian political society were suspended. This put democracy in Palestine to a serious test. However, the months preceding the elections raised questions about the Palestinian political sphere’s understanding of the importance of youths’ role and their representation in the Legislative Council and decision-making centres.

Palestinian youth, like all segments of society, suffer from the crisis of having a political sphere that is not offering representative policies serving all citizens. A partisan and fictionalised sphere narrows the count of beneficiaries of policies and the spaces for political action.

An experience of an effective Palestinian democracy should have provided a model of comprehensive and inclusive public policies. This could have been done by expanding the base of discussion, action, interaction, review and amendment of legislation and policies. Additionally, an effective “MONITOR” of the impact of policies could have been provided.

Today, Palestinian youth are facing critical questions. The most important of which are concerned with the higher education system and its activities. Its ability to cope with the challenges of the twenty-first century, employment, the market and its capacity. Questions also include how the responses are formulated on the needs of the Palestinian society, civic education programs and sources of promoting the culture of politics in confronting the occupation and its policies. Many other inquiries are difficult to pose without a truly democratic life.

Therefore, in light of this complex context, it is natural that the presence of youth in decision-making positions is extremely weak. There is an evident lack of presence for youth in the supposed changing spheres, as the system of constructing public policies is individual and limited. No individual or an isolated bureaucratic structure can influence or change it. This makes democracy a mandatory and urgent path, not only for the exercise of elections and representation. Rather, it is for change and providing radical and structural solutions to these accumulated imbalances.

The mission of producing the desired changes become more complicated in the face of the occupation. This is the main obstacle to the production of a full-fledged democracy and the division causes an internal damage that toppled the core of the Palestinian democratic building process. Locally, Palestinian civil society is still required to do more in order to bring about the desired change. The required change can be done by exercising its role in pressuring, socially preparing and providing effective civic education incubators for young people.

The opinions expressed in this article are the views of the author and not necessarily the opinion of the Association or donor.