Abbas fatah pensive 248 88 AP.
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Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is set to formally announce the postponement of the presidential and parliamentary elections that he called for January 24, a PA official in Ramallah said on Sunday.
Abbas decided to cancel the vote following a recommendation from the Palestinian Central Elections Committee, whose members told him that they would not be able to prepare for the elections in the Gaza Strip because of Hamas's decision to ban the vote there.
"The president has reached the conclusion that it's impossible to hold elections without the Gaza Strip," the official told The Jerusalem Post. "We're also not sure that Israel would allow Palestinians in Jerusalem to participate in the elections."
The official said that Abbas was not planning to set another date for elections after postponing the January vote. "It's premature to decide on a new date," he said. "A lot depends on whether the Egyptians and other Arab parties succeed in achieving reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah."
Asked about Abbas's recent announcement that he has "no desire" to run in another election, the PA official said, "I think the president will stay in power until new elections are held. At this stage he has no plans to step down."
In a recent interview with BBC's Arabic Channel, Abbas confirmed that he was unable to pursue his plan to hold elections on time, due to ongoing power struggle between Hamas and Fatah.
Abbas's move is seen by his rivals as an admission of failure - one that is likely to further undermine his credibility among Palestinians.
"It's now obvious that Abbas's threat not to run in a new election was nothing but a bluff," said a Palestinian political analyst in Ramallah. "He knew in the first place that he would never be able to hold elections without Hamas's consent."
According to the analyst, Abbas's threat to drop out of the race was understood by many Palestinians to be directed against the US administration. "Abbas was telling the Americans: Please hold me back," he explained. "If he was really serious about quitting, who's stopping him?"
Although it is widely believed that Abbas has no real intention of abandoning his post, at least not in the foreseeable future, Azzam al-Ahmed, a senior Fatah official closely associated with the PA president, expressed fear that Abbas's departure from public life would "plunge the Palestinian leadership and people into a crisis."
"If the president does not backtrack [on his decision not to seek reelection], this would lead to the total collapse of the Palestinian Authority, and not only its dismantlement," Ahmed told the Jerusalem-based Al-Quds newspaper.
He attributed Abbas's desire not to seek reelection to the "change" in the US administration's policy toward settlement construction.
The Fatah official said that Abbas had made a "painful concession" when he agreed to the resumption of peace negotiations if Israel halted settlement construction in the West Bank and Jerusalem for six months. "The US failed to carry out its pledge to exert pressure on Israel to agree to a freeze in settlement construction and that's why we are very disappointed," he added.
Ahmed said that he did not rule out the possibility that Abbas would announce his decision to "retire from political life" during a meeting of the PLO Central Council in Ramallah on December 15.
Asked whether Fatah was looking for other candidates when and if Abbas makes a final decision to quit, he said: "I don't believe there's a candidate to succeed President Abbas. We hope that the PLO Central Council would be able to persuade him to stay in power to avoid a constitutional vacuum."
The Fatah official lashed out at the US, describing it as a "repressive and tyrant" force that was trying to destroy the will of the Palestinians and other people. But, he continued, the US won't stay strong forever. "Where's the Soviet Union?" he asked. "It was a superpower that collapsed quite quickly."