He's Not The Palestinian President, But He Played One On TV : Parallels A 24-year-old Palestinian who was elected "president" on a TV reality show gets peppered with policy questions by his fans. It's a sign of how hungry Palestinians are for delayed real elections.
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He's Not The Palestinian President, But He Played One On TV

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He's Not The Palestinian President, But He Played One On TV

He's Not The Palestinian President, But He Played One On TV

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/490174054/490174055" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

The West Bank and Gaza Strip will hold local elections a couple months from now. Palestinians are eager to have their say. They haven't had elections in more than a decade. Young Palestinians are especially excited to vote, as evidenced by their reaction to a young Palestinian who played a politician on television. NPR's Nick Schifrin reports from Ramallah.

NICK SCHIFRIN, BYLINE: I'm walking through Ramallah, the seat of the Palestinian government in the West Bank, with the guy they call the president.

Do you recognize him?

DANA ADIQ: Yeah.

SCHIFRIN: He's the president.

ADIQ: Yeah.

SCHIFRIN: Do you recognize this man?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Yes. This is the president of Palestine.

SCHIFRIN: OK. He's not the real president. He just played one on TV.

Would you want to be the Palestinian president for real?

WAAD QANNAM: I hope that, yeah.

SCHIFRIN: Twenty-four-year-old Waad Qannam won a reality TV show called "The President." It was kind of like "American Idol." But instead of choosing their favorite singer, the audience chose their would-be leader. He won a year ago. But his 15 minutes of fame aren't up yet.

You recognize him from television?

ADIQ: Yeah.

SCHIFRIN: Do you want him to be the real president one day?

ADIQ: Yeah.

SCHIFRIN: Why?

ADIQ: (Speaking Arabic).

SCHIFRIN: Twenty-seven-year-old Dana Adiq calls Qannam strong, cultured and intellectual.

I think your reputation precedes you.

(LAUGHTER)

SCHIFRIN: Qannam is popular in part because he's the closest Palestinians have gotten to choosing a leader in a decade. The real president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, was elected in 2005 for what was supposed to be only a five-year term, which is why "The President" TV show resonated, says Qannam through an interpreter.

QANNAM: (Through interpreter) The program - the president sends a very strong message to the leaderships and says there is a real need for the democratic process. The youth want to get involved in the democratic process, which is nonexistent.

SCHIFRIN: Seventy percent of Palestinians are under 30. And they describe themselves as politically starved. They're frustrated by a lack of political and economic development. And many accuse their leadership of being focused only on keeping itself in power.

QANNAM: (Through interpreter) The upcoming elections will give the youth the opportunity to show that they are capable participants in the democratic process and in running the country.

SCHIFRIN: Nearby in the Am'ari refugee camp, 29-year-old Mohannad Samara runs a shop that cuts glass and mirrors. He's an Islamist who gives another reason that young people feel frustrated. He fears Hamas and other Islamist groups and their young voters won't be allowed to fully participate.

MOHANNAD SAMARA: (Through interpreter) I believe 100 percent that the youth will be blocked in the upcoming elections.

SCHIFRIN: Which brings us back to Qannam, as he tries to convince a group of young fans on the streets of Ramallah that their voices can be heard.

What do you promise to your future voters on how you'll support the young people?

QANNAM: (Speaking Arabic).

SCHIFRIN: Qannam starts his answer. And immediately, 25-year-old Tasneem Hushiyea interrupts.

QANNAM: (Speaking Arabic).

TASNEEM HUSHIYEA: (Speaking Arabic).

SCHIFRIN: She's desperate to talk to any leader - even a TV president. She challenges Qannam and asks how, for example, he can prevent nepotism.

QANNAM: (Speaking Arabic).

HUSHIYEA: His answer - elect a new group of younger, untainted politicians. He might even run himself to try and make his reality TV show title a reality. Nick Schifrin, NPR News, Ramallah.

[POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: The audio version of this story states that Waad Qannam won The President last year. He won the show in June of this year.]

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