Palestinian Elections: A Battle for Democracy in the Face of Occupation
[Ramallah] Today, following more than thirteen years of deep political division and fragmentation, the Palestinian people are finally pursuing a new approach to addressing the issue of national reconciliation. This new approach is a direct product of the video-conference meeting that took place between Ramallah and Beirut on September 3, which was attended by [Palestinian Authority] President Mahmoud Abbas and leaders of the Palestinian factions.
This new approach comes in the aftermath of previous failed attempts to bring about Palestinian unity, including the 2011 and 2017 reconciliation agreements, which fell short of solving the Palestinian political crisis and threatened not only Palestine’s geographic unity, but also its social and political unity, alongside the ability of the Palestine Liberation Organization to represent the Palestinian people.
The new approach is based on invoking the ballot box and allowing the people to choose their representatives in parliament, who will, in turn, serve as members of the Palestinian National Council. The mission of the Palestinian legislature, regardless of its makeup or its location, will be to form a government of national unity composed of the winning blocs and to bring an end to the ongoing Palestinian split brought about by the 2007 coup.
The understandings that were achieved in Istanbul between the delegations of Fatah and Hamas are another direct outcome of the September 3 conference. The two sides were finally able to engage in comprehensive dialogue over the core issue at hand – authority – which has been the cause for the ongoing political division.
Further, the agreement on a new proportional electoral system, and the use of a single electoral district for the entire nation with a 1.5% electoral threshold, will open the door to greater political pluralism in the next parliament and enhance political participation. It will also encourage the formation of alliances and coalitions among various lists, either before or after the elections.
Notwithstanding, as we talk about our immense hope for unity and a better future, we’re not losing sight of the great and serious political dangers facing our people, their rights, and their future in their homeland and in the diaspora: the Israeli and international, attempts to take over the Palestinian political system by forcing a new leadership upon it; President Trump’s “deal of the century” that is designed to legitimize Israel’s annexation; and the normalization of Arab ties with Israel as an illusion to Arab-Israeli peace that would replace Palestinian-Israeli peace.
As we face these challenging circumstances, our great hope stems from our genuine confidence in our people, their desire to reinvigorate the Palestinian democratic process through active political participation, and their continuous ability to overcome any potential obstacle that the Occupation places in their way in an effort to disrupt this process.
Our hope is to turn these elections into our main political weapon against the Occupation, which seeks to prevent our people from exercising their inherent democratic rights and to recruit the international system in our favor by exposing the Occupation’s faux democracy. This approach breaks away from the old equation of maintaining the status quo, which only serves to disintegrate and weaken the Palestinian institutions and leadership.
Therefore, we must view the Palestinian elections as an integral part of our battle against the Occupation: It is a battle to renew the legitimacy of our entire political system and remind those seeking to impose alternative political structures upon us that the Palestinian people will never give up their hope for freedom, independence, and statehood.
Finally, to those challenging this democratic process internally, from within, by claiming that these elections are nothing more than the continuation of the Oslo process: let’s not forget the monumental decision made by President Mahmoud Abbas on May 19th to cut off all ties and security agreements with Israel. For others who are looking for different excuses to disrupt this democratic process, they must understand that, whether intentionally or not, they are harming the Palestinian cause by enabling American-Israeli alternatives that will ultimately result in the undermining of our inalienable national rights to form an independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital.