Palestinian Election Postponement Announcement Expected
Fearing major loss for his Fatah party, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will delay May elections, placing blame on Israel for not allowing east Jerusalem voting
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has decided to postpone the Palestinian Legislative Council election, according to a Palestinian official.
The Palestinian official, who spoke to The Media Line on condition of anonymity, said that the Palestinian leadership is expected to convene in Ramallah on Thursday when Abbas is expected to make his announcement.
“The president will ask all factions to consent – they all agree that elections must be held in Jerusalem. But if Hamas and other factions object, the president will issue an executive order,” the official said.
Hamas, the Islamist group that rules the Gaza Strip, has said it does not want to see a delay to the elections, currently scheduled for May 22.
Speaking at a meeting of the Fatah Central Committee in Ramallah on Sunday, Abbas said Jerusalem is a red line for Palestinians.
“The elections must take place in Jerusalem, our eternal capital, and its people should be allowed to become candidates, vote and take part in campaigns. Anything other than this means returning to the Deal of the Century,” said a Fatah statement issued after the meeting, referring to former US President Donald Trump’s widely-rejected peace plan.
We haven’t had elections in more than 15 years, we believe that our people deserve their voices to be heard, we firmly stand against any delay. We will resist this expected decision
Nashat Al-Aqtash, the campaign manager of the independent Watan candidates list, told The Media Line that his list, and three others “will not recognize the postponement.”
“The reason is that the president issued the election decree and no longer has the authority to issue decrees at this stage. It is now up to the election commission,” Al-Aqtash said.
Abbas appears to be determined to not hold the elections on the dates set by his presidential decree under the premise that if elections can’t be held in Jerusalem, then there will be no elections.
The chief reason behind his decision is that a deeply divided Fatah movement will lead to a major loss for Abbas’ list.
Dimitri Diliani, spokesperson of the Reformist Democratic faction within Fatah, affiliated with Mohammed Dahlan, told The Media Line that his faction stands against any postponement of the overdue elections.
“We haven’t had elections in more than 15 years, we believe that our people deserve their voices to be heard, we firmly stand against any delay. We will resist this expected decision,” he said.
Israel has yet to approve Palestinian activities in east Jerusalem and repeatedly has crashed electoral gatherings and arrested candidates in the city in recent weeks.
The Oslo Accord signed in 1995 divided the West Bank, which was captured by Israel during the 1967 war, into three zones: Area A, Area B and Area C.
Area A is under the administrative and security control of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Area B’s administration is controlled by the PA, while Israel controls its security. Area C is under the full administrative and security control of Israel.
While east Jerusalem falls under Area C, some outskirts of the city are beyond the separation barrier, which means they are not under Israel’s administrative control. Those residents are able to participate freely in election activities, as opposed to their inner-city counterparts.
During elections in 1996, 2005 and 2006, Palestinian residents of east Jerusalem were permitted to vote.
The Palestinian population of east Jerusalem is estimated to be more than 340,000.
Amer Hamdan, a candidate from the United National Movement list, wrote on social media that postponing elections is “only an announcement of the defeat of the entire political system.”
Palestinian media reported that Israel has verbally told PA officials that it will not allow voting in Jerusalem.
But the Hebrew-language Walla news website reported on Tuesday that Foreign Ministry Chief of Staff Alon Bar met with 13 European ambassadors on Tuesday, and he stressed to them that Israel is not working to thwart the Palestinian parliamentary elections.
PA Minister of Civil Affairs Hussein al-Sheikh rejected the news that Israel doesn’t want to interfere in the elections. He said in a statement that “rumors that the Israeli government has agreed to hold elections, including in east Jerusalem, are false.”
He also said that the “Israeli position on holding elections in east Jerusalem is still negative,” and reiterated that an Israeli government official has verbally informed the PA that it cannot hold elections in east Jerusalem.
He said that the PA is still awaiting an official final Israeli response.
Khaled Dweikat of the United Palestinian Movement list told The Media Line that Palestinians “should seize the opportunity to restore to Jerusalem its status and should place ballet boxes in the Al-Aqsa Mosque under the supervision of Muslim and Christian clerics, and if the occupation confiscates them, let it be.”
Let us expose the occupation to the whole world; that it prevents the Palestinians from exercising even the most basic human right
Dweikat said that elections must be held without waiting for Israeli approval. He adds that rather than holding the elections and embarrassing Israel while keeping the issue of Jerusalem on the front burner, Abbas is opting not to do the right thing by not holding elections.
“Let us expose the occupation to the whole world; that it prevents the Palestinians from exercising even the most basic human right,” he said.
Al-Aqtash, who is also a media professor at Birzeit University near Ramallah, is determined to go on with the campaign, saying not even bullets can stop them.
“We will continue as if there are elections, and we will announce the victory of our representatives in the Legislative Council, and we will become the representatives of the people, we will occupy the Legislative Council, and enter the People’s House as a popular force that refuses the dominance of the Palestinian Authority. Let them shoot us. This aggression from the executive authority is unacceptable,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Palestinian newspaper Al-Quds also reported on Tuesday that the PA had decided to postpone the legislative elections after the US and some Arab countries exerted “pressure” on Abbas not to go ahead with election plans.
According to the newspaper, Washington and moderate Arab states are worried that Abbas’ Fatah list will not fare well against its rival, Hamas.
“Either our decision is a national one, or it will come from Tel Aviv and Washington,” said al-Aqtash. “If the decision is from there, then there is no need for elections.”
“It is time for the Palestinian people to speak up and choose a new leadership to lead them in the next phase,” he concluded.
We have suffered enough. An occupation, internal division that lasted for 15 years, and the daily hardships. People want to live within a democratic political system in which the human rights of Palestinians are preserved first
Recent polls have showed Fatah, a 53-year-old movement, underperforming in the May election, with rivals locking in consistent gains.
In polls looking to July’s presidential election, Abbas appears to be losing handily to Fatah Central Committee member Marwan Barghouti.
Barghouti, 61, poses the most serious threat to Abbas’ rule. He has become an existential threat to members of the Fatah establishment including Abbas, and a threat to their political future.
Barghouti, an influential Fatah leader, currently is serving five life sentences plus 40 years in an Israeli prison, after being convicted of responsibility for multiple killings of Israelis during the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising.
Reem al-Omari, a Ramallah-based journalist and host of a morning talk show, told The Media Line that the Palestinian people desperately need elections to be held.
“We have suffered enough. An occupation, internal division that lasted for 15 years, and the daily hardships. People want to live within a democratic political system in which the human rights of Palestinians are preserved first,” he said.
Omari warns that if elections are delayed or canceled, it will have major ramifications on Palestinian attitudes toward future democratic processes.
“I do not see any need to delay. This will spread negative spirit and energy on the Palestinian street, and it will lead to frustration among the people, they may not go out to vote in the future,” he said.
The last time Palestinians went to the polls was 15 years ago.