PA agrees to hold local elections, foils pro-Egypt protests

Delayed from June, vote would be in West Bank only; decision comes after PA expresses alarm at Tunisia, Egypt popular uprisings.

Palestinian flag 311 AP (photo credit: Associated Press)
Palestinian flag 311 AP
(photo credit: Associated Press)
Alarmed by the popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, the Palestinian Authority has finally agreed to hold local elections.
The PA abruptly called off municipal elections that were supposed to be held in the Palestinian territories last June.
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The PA’s High Court of Justice in Ramallah recently ruled that the decision to call off the elections was illegal and ordered the Palestinian government to hold the vote.
However, the PA has since failed to comply with the court order, apparently out of fear that Hamas supporters would win the local election.
On Tuesday, the PA cabinet, which met in Ramallah, announced that it was planning to set a date for the municipal elections in its next meeting next week.
The vote is likely to take place only in the West Bank because Hamas has declared that it won’t allow the process in the Gaza Strip.
Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said on Monday night that all Palestinian parties must start thinking seriously about holding general elections in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
“I believe it’s appropriate to start thinking seriously about holding the general elections in both the West Bank and Gaza Strip,” Fayyad said. “Perhaps it’s time to use these elections as an incentive to end divisions among the people and reunite the homeland and its institutions.”
Presidential elections were supposed to be held in January 2009, while the legislative vote was scheduled to take place exactly a year later.
But the power struggle between Hamas and Fatah has prevented the two sides from reaching agreement on the elections.
The PA leadership, meanwhile, has moved to prevent an outburst of celebrations in the West Bank when and if Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak steps down, a Palestinian security source in Ramallah revealed.
The source said that PA President Mahmoud Abbas met in the past two days with commanders of his security forces and discussed with them the possibility that thousands of Palestinians would take to the streets in the West Bank to celebrate the downfall of Mubarak’s regime.
The PA is concerned that the anti-Mubarak demonstration would turn against Abbas and other Palestinian officials, especially in light of Al-Jazeera’s “Palestine Papers” that accused them of making far-reaching concessions to Israel during the peace talks.
Over the past few days, PA security forces foiled several attempts by Palestinians to organize anti-Mubarak demonstrations in the West Bank.
In the Gaza Strip, Hamas has also banned demonstrations in support of the Egyptian uprising.