GAZA CITY: As Palestinians await further developments on talks of possible elections, the positive noises emanating from Hamas and President Mahmoud Abbas have not put minds at ease. Abbas met with Hamas’s approval last week to hold legislative polls no more than three months before the presidential election.
For the second time in seven days, the Central Election Commission (CEC), headed by Dr. Hanna Nasser, met with Hamas and other Palestinian leaders in Gaza to brief them on Abbas’s position and to discuss further details.
But it is enough worry many Palestinians who recall many failed past experiences, the most important of which was the Egyptian-sponsored reconciliation agreement in 2017 and the municipal elections that were agreed upon and were supposed to take place two years ago.
The overdue polls come amid the backdrop of recent electoral stalemates in Israel, and the political upheaval in Lebanon.
Ibrahim Abrash, a professor of public law and political science, told Arab News that talk about successful elections in Palestine was “premature” given so little progress had been made in the recent past.
The CEC’s actions came in response to a call for a general election launched by President Abbas on Sept. 26, which, Abrash believes, was due to “people pressure” rather than any actual desire to go to the polls.
“The political class and parties do not want to hold elections, and every party is satisfied with his hand,” he said, adding that a genuine and sincere intention to go to the polls would require national dialogue sessions to agree on the electoral laws, and to establish mechanisms and procedures to ensure a healthy, transparent and fair election.
“Without this, the elections will fail, and the ordinary Palestinian will be the one who suffers.”
Legislative elections have been held twice previously in Palestine, the first in 1996 for the Legislative Council and the Presidency following the establishment of the Palestinian Authority, and the second in 2006, preceded by the presidential elections in 2005 following the death of President Yasser Arafat.
The former presidential candidate and head of the National Initiative Movement, Mustafa Barghouthi, identified several obstacles that could hinder Palestinian elections, notably Israel’s refusal to allow them to be held in occupied Jerusalem, its arrest of candidates in the West Bank, and the potential collapse of the current national talks, and the failure of Hamas to allow elections in Gaza.
Barghouti told Arab News that the current movement was a “precious opportunity” that should be treated as a form of popular resistance to the stale state of Palestinian politics, that, if successful, could lead to elections that reflect the will of the Palestinian people.
Following the meeting with the CEC on Sunday, Hamas’s Ismail Haniyeh said that the talks discussed details that would ensure a successful electoral process.
Talal Abu Zarifa, a member of the political bureau of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, said that ensuring the holding of elections and respecting their results called for the provisional leadership framework to be convened to discuss electoral law, especially full proportional representation, as well as discussing the issue of freedom of candidacy.
CEC Executive Director Hisham Kuhail told Palestine Radio that legislative elections would need 120 days following the issuance of the presidential decree, and that the public should “therefore expect the elections in February 2020.”