Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas early on Friday postponed scheduled parliamentary elections until there is a guarantee that voting can take place in Israel-annexed east Jerusalem.
Abbas made the announcement during a meeting of Palestinian factions in Ramallah. He called on the international community to pressure Israel to allow campaigning and voting in east Jerusalem.
Earlier, on Thursday night, Abbas announced that Israel had informed the PA that it would not allow polling places to be set up in east Jerusalem. The reason given, according to Abbas, was that no decision could be made since Israel does not have a government in place.
“There will be no elections without Jerusalem,” Abbas said.
The legislative elections, the first Palestinian elections in 15 years, had been scheduled for May 22.
Abbas’ decision to delay the elections comes amid deep division in his Fatah party. The rival Hamas movement, which rules the Gaza Strip, boycotted the late Thursday night meeting in protest and blasted the postponement, describing it as a “coup against the partnership we have.” Hamas said that Abbas “would bear full responsibility for the decision and its consequences.”
Hani al-Masry, a candidate from the Freedom candidates list, told The Media Line the delay will deepen the split between the Palestinians’ two largest factions.
“I think it was a wrong decision and it will harm politically, nationally, democratically and legally. The division will deepen and lead to further encroachment of power and its violation of rights and freedoms,” he said.
Masri said he is not surprised that Israel is not allowing Palestinians in east Jerusalem to vote.
“After obtaining the US decision that Jerusalem is the united capital of Israel, and after the Nation-State Law, it is not expected that Israel will accept permitting elections in Jerusalem,” he said. He blamed the PA for not being ready with alternative plans.
Postponing the elections means that the leadership was not serious from the beginning in moving forward with this issue
Many of the political lists running for election to the Palestinian Legislative Council rejected Abbas’ announcement.
Jihad Abdo of the Enough list, told The Media Line that Palestinian people should consider this a “black day.”
“It’s shameful that the Palestinian’s right to exercise their right to vote depends on an Israeli decision, the leadership’s decision was not wise,” he said.
Angry Palestinians gathered in Ramallah’s main square downtown were swift to criticize Abbas’ move. Furious with the decision, protesters including Abdo accused the 86-year-old Abbas of not being serious about holding elections.
“Postponing the elections means that the leadership was not serious from the beginning in moving forward with this issue,” Abdo said.
Outspoken activist Fayez Al-Suwaiti, who has been arrested several times by the PA security forces for criticizing the leadership and accusing them of corruption, told The Media Line that “Abbas’ decision no longer concerns us. The people are the source of authority.”
“The Palestine Liberation Organization is calcified, dispersed and marginalized, and tonight’s meeting was attended by only semi-extinct factions, while Hamas, Jihad, the Popular Front and Democracy have boycotted it,” he said, referring to other political factions.
Many Palestinians say the Jerusalem dispute gave Abbas a pretext to call off elections he might lose.
Internal division inside his own Fatah party has made it almost impossible for Abbas to win a majority, jeopardizing his long grip on power.
“The real reasons behind the decision are that Fatah’s chance of winning has become slim after its disintegration. Also, because there is an Israeli and American rejection of the elections, as well as the need to adhere to the Oslo Accords,” said Masri.
Many of Abbas’ political rivals are threatening to take to the streets if he doesn’t immediately reschedule a date for the election.
The real reasons behind the decision are that Fatah’s chance of winning has become slim after its disintegration.
Abdo says the Palestinian street is “simmering,” and that the unrest is reaching a critical phase.
“We do not want to reach the stage of breaking the social contract between us and the leadership. There have been no elections for more than ten years. What does he want from us, should we go out and demand he leaves?” Abdo said, referring to Abbas.
Only a few dozen people showed up in Ramallah to protest following Abbas’ announcement, but Abdo warns against misreading the low attendance.
“I advise people who are wondering where the Palestinian anger is, to slow down a little. The next stage is difficult. And I hope that the Palestinian people will not be angry, because if they get angry, we are likely to enter into a disaster period,” he said.