President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority has announced that the Palestinians will be able to vote for the first time in fifteen years. The aim is to hold elections to the Palestinian Parliament on 22 May and to elect a new Palestinian President on 31 July. “If the elections continue, it is a huge development,” says correspondent Ties Brock.
The last elections to the Palestinian Parliament were held in 2006. They were won by Hamas, against the sore leg of Fatah – the party of Abbas – and from Israel and the USA. The West and Israel see the harsh Islamic Hamas as a terror movement.
An armed conflict between Fatah and Hamas caused a factual split of Palestinian administration: Fatah took power in the West Bank and Hamas has been scepting over the Gaza Strip since 2007.
The last presidential election was in 2005, when Abbas was the successor of Yasser Arafat. His term officially expired in 2009, but he remained in power.
Agreement with Hamas
The announcement of new elections comes after frequent consultations between Fatah and Hamas. Ties Brock: “Hot issues included Hamass ability to campaign in the West Bank and the dates of the elections. Hamas wanted the parliamentary and presidential elections to be held simultaneously.” Hamas says today in a statement to welcome the decision of Abbas.
Since the administrative division in 2007, there have been numerous reconciliation efforts between the two parties and also interim governments in which both Fatah and Hamas were represented. At the end of September, they concluded an agreement which stipulated, inter alia, that elections should be held.
That agreement came not long after Israel concluded several standardisation agreements with Arab countries. The Palestinians saw this as a betrayal by their Arab allies, which reduced the chances of a state of their own. Internal Palestinian unity is therefore particularly important to continue to play internationally, as Fatah and Hamas believe, because of the loss of Arab support.
US President Trump played a major role in the conclusion of the agreements between Israel and various Arab countries. Possibly, in announcing concrete election dates, Joe Biden will be in the White House as of mid-next week, says Brock. Abbas would like to send out a signal to take democracy seriously, despite many times in the last fifteen years he has failed to keep the promise of holding elections.
“ Many people here are wondering if the elections are going to happen this time,” says Brock. There may still be many obstacles, such as East Jerusalem: “The international community considers East Jerusalem as Israel-occupied territory, but Israel sees it as part of its own country. This makes it uncertain whether Israel will allow Palestinians to vote there.”