Palestinians compete to become ‘President’ on new reality show

April 17, 2013

Still photo from new Palestinian reality show "The President"

The Arab Spring may not have brought revolution or protest to the Palestinian people but a small group of young men and women in the Israeli-occupied West Bank may find greater democracy in the form of a new reality TV show called "The President."

A cross between "The Apprentice" and "American Idol," “The President” pits young Palestinians against one another in a battle for the coveted title of President of Palestine. Though the victor of course will not actually take the presidency, the winner will receive an as-yet-unannounced prize.

Each week, the contestants – now whittled down to 25 finalists – must overcome challenges such as acting as the Palestinian ambassador to a foreign country, managing a large corporation for a day or joining a televised political debate.

Launched on March 14, the show comes at an opportune time. Last week, veteran Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad announced his resignation amid rumors of a power struggle at the top of the West Bank government, leaving a conspicuous vacuum in the leadership.

The show is run by Palestinian news agency Ma’an and the nonprofit organization Search for Common Ground. The panel of three judges includes top lawmakers and political voices, such as legislator Hanan Ashrawi, Arab-Israeli parliamentarian Ahmad Tibi and Ammar A. Aker, CEO of Palestine Telecommunications Group.

The show’s creators say the goal is to present a new generation of Palestinians who have “opted for a creative and non-violent approach to the problems they face.”

Though the contestants are not competing for actual political office, maybe one of them could turn out to be a future Palestinian leader. Stranger things have happened.

Correction: An earlier version of this post indicated that the office of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had given its permission for the show. In fact, a producer for the program said that Abbas’s office was made aware of the show but did not give its explicit permission.

Ruth Eglash is a correspondent for The Washington Post based Jerusalem. She was formerly a reporter and senior editor at the Jerusalem Post and freelanced for international media.
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