Can the Palestinians hold new elections?

Hamas, Islamic Jihad welcome Abbas's plan to hold elections

PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY President Mahmoud Abbas (photo credit: OSMAN ORSAL/REUTERS)
(photo credit: OSMAN ORSAL/REUTERS)
Hamas and Islamic Jihad have welcomed Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s intention to call for a general election upon his return to Ramallah from New York, where he delivered a speech on Thursday before the UN General Assembly.
The Palestinian Central Elections Commission said on Saturday it was ready to hold new elections, and that a date would be set for holding the election as soon as Abbas issues a “presidential decree” regarding the vote.
Palestinian political analysts, however, expressed skepticism over the prospects of holding an election, especially in the wake of the continued rivalry between Abbas’s ruling Fatah faction and Hamas.
Abbas said in his speech that he has decided, upon his return to Ramallah, “to announce a date for the holding of a general election in Palestine – in the West Bank, including east Jerusalem and Gaza Strip.” He called on the UN and international organizations to monitor the election, and warned that he will “attribute full responsibility to those who may attempt to prevent it from happening on the date determined.”
Noting that the last Palestinian parliamentary election was held in 2006, Abbas said “this democratic process was paralyzed by the coup of Hamas in 2007,” referring to the terror group’s violent takeover of the Gaza Strip that year.
Welcoming the call for holding the long overdue election, Hamas called on Abbas to renounce the Oslo Accords with Israel to ensure the success of the vote.
Hamas said Palestinians need to reach agreement on a “comprehensive strategy to face US-backed Israeli schemes to liquidate the Palestinian cause.”
Islamic Jihad senior official Nafez Azzam also welcomed Abbas’s call for holding an election, and said it would contribute to achieving Palestinian unity.
Elections for the PA presidency and Palestinian parliament, Azzam said, represent a “partial solution” to the problems facing the Palestinians.
A senior PA official in Ramallah predicted that Israel will not allow the Palestinians to hold an election in east Jerusalem. Israel permitted Palestinian residents of east Jerusalem (who are not Israeli citizens) to cast votes at post offices in the Palestinian parliamentary elections in 2006, which resulted in a Hamas victory.
“I doubt if Israel will allow Palestinians in east Jerusalem to participate in the election, when and if they are held,” the official said. “This will be one of the obstacles to holding the election.”
He also said that he does not believe that Hamas is interested in holding a new election.
Ibrahim Milhem, spokesperson for the PA government, said on Saturday that east Jerusalem “must be included in a new election, like the Gaza Strip.” He said that the PA government was planning to ask the international community to intervene to allow the Palestinians to hold an election also in east Jerusalem.
Palestinian political analysts pointed out that it was unclear what Abbas meant when he talked about holding an election.
“President Abbas was not clear,” said one analyst. “He didn’t say whether he meant presidential or parliamentary elections, or elections for the PLO’s parliament, the Palestine National Council.”
Another analyst said he believes Abbas was only referring to an election for the Palestinian parliament, the Palestinian Legislative Council. “I don’t believe we will see a presidential election in the near future,” he said.
The last presidential election was held in January 2005, when Abbas was elected for a four-year-term.
The analysts said that the chances of holding any election were slim in light of the continued dispute between Fatah and Hamas, adding that the gap between the two rival parties remains as wide as ever.
 Since 2006, several attempts to hold an election have failed to materialize after Fatah and Hamas were unable to reach agreement on the implementation of their reconciliation accords.
They said that in order for the election to succeed, Fatah and Hamas need to reach agreement on the implementation of previous reconciliation agreements they reached in the past 12 years.