Abbas to discuss delaying PLC vote date

Egypt fears that Hamas is lined up for a landslide victory.

abbas 88 AP (photo credit: AP)
abbas 88 AP
(photo credit: AP)
Facing immense pressure to postpone next month's parliamentary elections, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas is expected to visit Cairo soon for talks with President Hosni Mubarak on the possibility of delaying the vote, PA officials in Ramallah said on Tuesday. According to the officials, Egypt supports postponing the elections for fear that Hamas would score a landslide victory. "The Egyptians believe that it is not in the Palestinians' interest to hold the elections under the current circumstances," said one official, referring to US and EU threats to cut off financial aid to the Palestinians if Hamas is permitted to participate in the elections. Egyptian Intelligence Chief Gen. Omar Suleiman was scheduled to visit Ramallah on Wednesday in a bid to persuade Abbas to delay the elections in the wake of the American and European threats. Abbas is also under tremendous pressure from many members of Fatah to call off the elections because of the continued power struggle in the ruling party. Fatah is planning to contest the vote in two separate lists - one formed by Abbas and the old guard Fatah leadership and a second that is headed by jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti. PA chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said on Tuesday that delaying the parliamentary elections would have "catastrophic" consequences for the Palestinians. "Postponing the elections will lead to violence, chaos and bloodshed," he said. Erekat said he had sent messages to the Quartet members and the United Nations Secretary-General asking them to intervene with Israel to halt its attempts to "disrupt" the upcoming elections. Erekat was referring specifically to Israel's opposition to opening polling stations in Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem. He reiterated the PA's rejection of US and EU threats to cut off financial aid to the Palestinians if Hamas is allowed to run in the elections, saying: "We categorically reject any attempt to meddle in our internal affairs. The US Congress and the international community should respect the democratic choice of the Palestinians." According to Erekat, Abbas told US President George W. Bush during their last meeting in the White House that he was determined to hold the elections on time. "The elections will be postponed only in the case of my death," he reportedly told Bush. Meanwhile, several Palestinian politicians and academics urged Abbas not to succumb to pressure to postpone the elections. At a meeting in Ramallah, they warned that such a delay could escalate tensions and have a negative impact on reforms. Outgoing Finance Minister Salam Fayyad, who is running in the elections at the head of an independent list, expressed concern over the ongoing state of lawlessness and anarchy in PA-controlled areas. Fayyad has suspended his election campaign in protest against the internal violence. Other speakers, including Hanan Ashrawi and Yasser Abed Rabbo, called on the PA leadership to take immediate measures to restore law and order to ensure the safety of the electoral process. They also rejected outside intervention in the parliamentary elections. Hamas warned the PA on Tuesday against bowing to US and EU pressure, saying the parliamentary elections were the only way to rid the Palestinians of the many crises they are facing. The movement called on Egypt to help the Palestinians hold the elections on time and said Hamas would not accept any outside intervention in the internal affairs of the Palestinians. Hamas condemned as "extortion" the US and EU threats.