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Palestinians eagerly elect fake leader in reality TV show 'The President'

Democracy is test-fired on Palestinian television.

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Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas gestures during a press conference April 30, 2013. (AFP/AFP/Getty Images)

Democracy is a surprise hit in Palestine with the success of a reality TV show called "The President," in which contestants compete for audience votes to win a mock title, reported the Associated Press.

Or maybe they just miss voting – Palestinians have gone to the polls for presidential elections only twice in the past two decades, meaning some kids watching "The President" have never seen an actual election take place there. 

Contestants running for "president" on the show, aired every week on the nonpartisan Ma'an TV, are questioned on a range of topics by a panel of leading popular figures such as politicians, professors and businessmen. The audience responds to the exchange by voting for their favorite candidate, and the winner will be crowned – crowned? – in late June, said AP

"We have to show that the Palestinian people understand and want real democracy. We want elections, real elections. But if we cannot have them then we can do our own," said Raed Othman, director of Ma'an network, according to International Business Times.

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"There are a lot of people who say we don't have leaders, so we need to prove to them that there are a lot of leaders in Palestine. We want to teach the people that democracy is possible whenever we want," Othman said.

Judges on the show include Palestinian politician and human rights activist Hanan Ashrawi, MP Ahmad Tibi and CEO of Palestine Telecommunications Group Ammar Aker.

The winner will also be allowed to "travel the world as a mock Palestinian ambassador," said AP, declining to comment on how such a person might be received internationally given the territories' tangled statehood status.

In real life, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has promised to hold elections only when he has resolved differences with the Islamic militant group Hamas running Gaza Strip. 

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/israel-and-palestine/130510/palestinians-mock-elect-new-leader-rea