Palestinian authorities announce first elections in 15 years



Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas delivers the electoral decree to the Chairman of the Palestinian Central Election Committee, Hana Naser, in Ramallah, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.


© Office of the Palestinian President / Reuters
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas delivers the electoral decree to the Chairman of the Palestinian Central Election Committee, Hana Naser, in Ramallah, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Through a decree, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced the call for elections in a process that will comprise three stages. This initiative is the first call by the people to an electoral process after more than three decades.

“President Mahmud Abbas published a presidential decree on Friday of general elections (…) The president instructed the electoral committee and all state apparatus to launch a democratic electoral process in all the cities of the country,” published the official Wafa agency.

In this way, at least five million Palestinians settled in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem are called to participate in a process that will comprise three stages. On May 22, the parliamentary elections are scheduled to take place, on July 31 the presidential election will be held, while on August 31 the election of the Palestinian National Council is estimated.

The last presidential elections, in which Abbas was the winner, were held on January 9, 2005. For its part, the parliament election, where the Islamic Hamas Movement won the majority of seats, took place on 25 January 2006.

The Reuters news agency points out that the call for elections comes as a measure to lessen internal divisions.

On the other hand, it appears close to the inauguration of Joe Biden as president of the United States, a country with which Palestine seeks to resume relations after a fall under the command of Donald Trump (2017-2021).

Hamas celebrated the call for elections

The announcement, endorsed under the issued presidential decree, comes after the nationalist Fatah party, led by Abbas, and the Islamic Movement Hamas reached an agreement in early January after more than a decade of fighting.

According to the EFE news agency, similar agreements had been reached in the past, but it was never translated into a presidential decree like the one released on January 15.

Hamas, which de facto rules the territory of Gaza (under Israeli blockade since 2007) welcomed the call for elections and highlighted Abbas’s enthusiasm. The movement adds that the convocation is “a success in the interest of the Palestinian people, who have the absolute right to elect their leaders and representatives.”

On the other hand, he highlighted the “importance of preparing the environment for free and fair elections in which the voter expresses his will without pressure or restrictions.” Additionally, he assured that he will show “great flexibility” for the preparation of the process.

Palestine, a long wait to participate in elections

According to the Constitution of Palestine, elections of authorities must be held every four years. However, the territory has not held elections since 2006, when the Palestinians voted in parliament.

One of the reasons why the Palestinian people have been waiting for a call for elections is because of the division that exists between the main movements (Fatah and Hamas).

This division deepened after the victory of Hamas in the parliamentary elections and then the seizure of control, by force, in the territory of Gaza in 2007. There they expelled the representation of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) led by Abbas, which started a long confrontation that resulted in the deterioration of Palestinian national unity.

Mahmud Abbas, despite having announced in previous years that he was a defender of democratic processes and having prevailed in the 2005 elections with 60% of the votes, has seen his legitimacy deteriorate due to the lack of calls for electoral processes.

In 2019 there was an attempt to achieve elections, however, on that occasion everything was hindered with Abbas’s announcement that “if Israel does not grant the right to vote to the Palestinians in Jerusalem there will be no elections.”

Israel, which captured East Jerusalem in the 1967 war and annexed it in 1980 in a movement that has no international recognition, considers this city, as a whole, as its capital. In addition, it prohibits any official Palestinian activity in said territory on the grounds that it violates the provisional peace agreements signed in the 1990s.

With EFE, Reuters and AFP

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