Palestinian Authority Will Finally Hold Elections
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas pictured in 2016 during a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. (WIkimedia Commons via press service of the President of Russia)

Palestinian Authority Will Finally Hold Elections

Votes for PA president, as well as PA and PLO legislatures, to be held within six months, according to elections officials

After more than a decade of political stalemate, Palestinian Authority President and PLO Chairman Mahmoud Abbas is expected to next week schedule elections for the PA presidency and Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), and for the PLO’s National Council.

The last presidential election, which Abbas won, was held in January 2005. The last PLC election, which Hamas won, was held in January 2006. Palestinian National Council elections have never been held and most members were appointed by the PLO’s Executive Committee.

The PLC was essentially disbanded after Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in June 2007, forcing Abbas to promulgate laws by decree. This situation will persist until elections are held, following which the PLC will be tasked with reviewing presidential edicts.

Hanna Nasser, the head of the Palestinian Central Elections Commission (CEC), presented a proposal with specific dates for the three elections, during a meeting with Abbas on Saturday night. The CEC is to meet again no later than January 20 so the president can issue decrees setting the dates, to be followed by consultation among all factions about the electoral process.

CEC spokesperson Fared Tomallah told The Media Line that Nasser and Abbas met in a positive atmosphere, and that Abbas showed seriousness regarding conducting these elections.

“At the elections commission we are ready and are shaping our plans to start work immediately, as soon as the presidential decrees with the dates are out, in order to launch the official work in this regard,” Tomallah said.

“The decrees will define these details, and we are waiting for them…, the date for each election,” he said.

“We need between 90 and 120 days after the decrees are out to conduct the elections according to the law, but, as I said, the president chooses these dates,” Tomallah added.

Tomallah declined to reveal the dates proposed by the CEC, but he affirmed that once the electoral process is scheduled, the commission will meet with all of the Palestinian political factions.

At the elections commission we are ready and are shaping our plans to start work immediately, as soon as the presidential decrees with the dates are out

Moeen al-Taher, a Jordanian-Palestinian political analyst and researcher at the Institute for Palestine Studies in Amman, told The Media Line the elections are necessary to renew the legitimacy of the Palestinian Authority.

“Yet the mechanism by which they will take place is still unknown,” Taher added.

There is a chance that Fatah − the ruling party in the West Bank, and Hamas − the ruling party in the Gaza Strip, will agree on a unified candidates list, or will run their candidates on separate lists but in agreed proportions so as to maximize both parties’ success, he said.

“That is, they will be ‘pre-arranged elections,’ which means managing the division [between the West Bank and Gaza] and not their reconciliation, which would require agreement on a political program,” Taher said.

The PLC election will be held first, followed by the presidential vote, and then elections for the National Council, he said. “Hamas initially rejected this [holding the PLC vote first], fearing that the remainder of the elections would not take place, and then accepted it after Arab guarantees,” he added.

Fatah wants to guarantee the agreement and renew its legitimacy, “but the main thing that remains the two parties’ desire for harmony and partnership,” Taher said.

Perhaps the most important thing is everyone’s determination and desire for the success of these elections

The CEC expressed full readiness over the weekend to fully carry out its national mission, while Abbas reaffirmed his positions on strengthening national unity through a free and fair electoral process.

Wasel Abu Yousef, leader of the Palestinian Liberation Front and a member of the PLO Executive Committee, told The Media Line that elections are important for three reasons: First, for the sake of Palestinian democracy and for the renew of Palestinian institutions; Second, to provide an opening to ending the Palestinian division between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

“And last, to renew the atmosphere in the Palestinian arena in terms of renovating the infrastructure, after forming a government of national unity,” he said.

It has been agreed to hold the elections within six months, starting with the PLC, followed by the presidential and then the National Council vote, on the basis of proportional representation, Abu Yousef said.

“The letter that was sent by Ismail Haniyeh [the head of the Hamas Political Bureau] to President Abbas and the secretaries of national action factions indicated Hamas’ commitment to what has been agreed on at the Palestinian embassy in Istanbul, after it walked back on it in Cairo,” Abu Yousef said. “Therefore, all Palestinian factions and President Abbas welcomed it.”

Fatah and Hamas representatives met in the Turkish metropolis this past September and agreed to forge a “comprehensive national partnership” and to hold the three elections within six months, on the basis of proportional representation and in the order specified above.

The Istanbul Agreement also called for direct and active dialogue with the Palestinian factions at home and abroad, and to complete the bilateral dialogue between Fatah and Hamas on the details necessary for the success of the process, after the issuance of the presidential decrees.

Abu Yousef said that based on Saturday’s meeting between Abbas and Nasser, the CEC will provide a comprehensive study on the elections to the president by the end of this week, so he can issue the required decrees.

“Perhaps the most important thing is everyone’s determination and desire for the success of these elections during the coming period, which, after issuance of the presidential decrees, will be discussed during a meeting of all the Palestinian factions on how to succeed in the elections and to overcome any obstacles, and how to include the Palestinians in the holy city of Jerusalem, so they can participate in terms of nominating and electing candidates,” he added.

Fatah and Hamas took significant steps in late 2020 to achieve reconciliation and end the division in the Palestinian arena, holding a series of meetings in Beirut, Ramallah, Cairo and Istanbul, including via video conferencing.


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