PA election officials arrive in Gaza for talks with Hamas

The visit comes in wake of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s recent announcement that he intends to call for “general elections” in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem.

PA PRESIDENT Mahmoud Abbas – ‘He makes threats and engages in fiery rhetoric as part of a strategy to appease the Palestinian public.’ (photo credit: REUTERS/MOHAMAD TOROKMAN)
PA PRESIDENT Mahmoud Abbas – ‘He makes threats and engages in fiery rhetoric as part of a strategy to appease the Palestinian public.’
The chairman of the Palestinian Central Elections Commission (CEC), Hanna Nasir, arrived in the Gaza Strip on Sunday for talks with leaders of Hamas and other Palestinian factions on Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s plans to hold parliamentary elections in the coastal enclave, the West Bank and east Jerusalem.
Nasir was accompanied by senior CEC officials, including Chief Electoral Officer Hisham Kuhail and his deputy, Ashraf Shuaibi. The officials entered the Gaza Strip through the Erez border crossing with Israel.
Abbas made his announcement about the elections during a speech before the United Nations General Assembly on September 26. “From the outset, we have believed in democracy as a foundation for the building of our state and society,” Abbas said in his speech. “I have decided, upon my return from this international gathering, to announce a date for the holding of general elections in Palestine.”
He called on the UN and international groups to monitor the process, adding that he will “attribute full responsibility to those who may attempt to prevent it from taking place.”
PA officials said that they are planning to first hold parliamentary elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC). Elections for the PA presidency, they said, will be held at a later stage.
Hamas and several Palestinian factions have welcomed Abbas’s plan to hold new elections. They insist, however, that parliamentary and presidential elections should be held simultaneously rather than separately.
Hamas and Islamic Jihad officials have said they also want new elections for the Palestine National Council, the legislative body of the PLO.
The last presidential election was held in January 2005, when Abbas was elected for a four-year-term. The last parliamentary election was held one year later and resulted in a Hamas victory. In 2007, Hamas violently seized control of the Gaza Strip – a move that left the PLC completely paralyzed.
Before heading to the Gaza Strip, the CEC heads met with representatives of political parties and civil society organizations in the West Bank, and discussed with them preparations for holding new elections.
Palestinian political analysts pointed out that Abbas has yet to issue a “presidential decree” for holding new elections. The analysts expressed skepticism that he will be able to hold new elections in light of the continued dispute between his Fatah faction and Hamas.
“I don’t believe Hamas will allow elections to take place in the Gaza Strip before Abbas commits to implementing previous reconciliation agreements his Fatah faction signed with Hamas in the past few years,” said a Ramallah-based analyst. “I also don’t see Abbas agreeing to Hamas’s demand to hold presidential and parliamentary elections at once.”
Another political analyst said he ruled out the possibility that Israel would permit Palestinian elections to take place in east Jerusalem. “This is another obstacle,” the analyst added. “Abbas and several Palestinian officials have already announced that there will be no elections without East Jerusalem.”