PA Government postpones elections for four months

An overwhelming majority of Palestinians wanted the municipal elections to take place in the West Bank and Gaza on October 8.

October 4, 2016 19:53
3 minute read.
Mahmoud Abbas

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. (photo credit: REUTERS)

The Palestinian Authority on Tuesday decided to postpone the municipal elections, which the PA High Court suspended on September 8, for four more months. The decision came a day after the PA High Court of Justice ruled to hold the elections solely in the West Bank, excluding the Gaza Strip.

PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah said that the government postponed the elections as a part of its commitment “to the general interest of the people” and “the unity of the land,” saying that “elections will take place in one day in all provinces of the homeland.”

PA spokesman Jamal Dajani clarified to The Jerusalem Post that the government is not defying the High Court’s decision in saying elections will take place in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, but rather hopes it can exploit the next four months to overcome the legal hurdles preventing the elections from taking place in Gaza. “The government has the next four months to straighten out any legal concerns about holding the elections in the Gaza Strip,” Dajani said.

In its decision on Monday, the High Court said that the current makeup of the judiciary in the Gaza Strip makes it impossible to hold elections there.

The PA does not recognize the judiciary in the Gaza Strip, which Hamas has controlled since forcefully taking over the small coastal enclave in 2007.

The PA Central Elections Commission called on the government on Monday to postpone the elections for six months and criticized the High Court’s decision to exclude Gaza, but welcomed the postponement.

“The commission sees this decision to be in harmony with its recommendation to postpone the elections instead of holding them in the West Bank only, which would have deepened the division,” a statement on its website read.

Fatah spokesman Osama Qawasmeh said that the postponement of the elections proves that President Abbas, Fatah, and the government want “to hold elections in the entire homeland,” and “reject depriving the Gaza Strip of elections.”

Meanwhile, Hamas denounced the decision. “Hamas rejects any postponement of the elections and is insistent that they be held,” a statement on Hamas’s official website read, adding, “Hamas considers the government decision to postpone the elections an evasion of electoral rights for the benefit of Fatah’s partisan interests.”

An overwhelming majority of Palestinians wanted the municipal elections to take place in the West Bank and Gaza on October 8, according to an Arab World for Research and Development poll sampling 1,200 persons from the West Bank and Gaza in September.

The poll found that 76% of Palestinians, 74% of whom reside in the West Bank and 78% in Gaza, wanted the elections to take place on time in both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

In a statement regarding the PA government’s decision to postpone municipal elections, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nickolay Mladenov, said, “I welcome today’s decision to postpone local elections. It is in the national interest of the Palestinian people that when such elections take place, they be organized both in the West Bank and Gaza. I urge all Palestinian bodies to work together in good faith to overcome internal divisions and uphold democracy.

“Local elections, conducted in line with established international standards, must contribute to advancing Palestinian reconciliation based on PLO principles, as well as to ending the occupation and establishing a democratic, unified Palestinian state as part of a negotiated two-state solution.”

Hamas and Fatah have not participated in the elections taking place in the West Bank and Gaza since the 2006 parliamentary elections.

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