PA announces presidential elections

In wake of Egyptian upheaval, Abbas has already said he won’t seek another term.

Abbas smiling 311 AP (photo credit: AP)
Abbas smiling 311 AP
(photo credit: AP)
Events in Egypt prompted the Palestinian Authority on Saturday to declare that it was preparing to hold presidential and parliamentary elections as early as September.
The PA’s announcement came in the wake of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s decision Friday to step down.
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Last week, the PA announced that it would also hold municipal elections in July.
Hamas has said it will boycott the three elections and not allow voting in the Gaza Strip.
PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s term in office expired in January 2009. The parliament’s term expired a year later.
The last time municipal elections were held in the West Bank and Gaza Strip was in 2006. The ongoing dispute between Fatah and Hamas has prevented agreement on holding elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The 75-year-old Abbas had previously announced that he had no intention to run for another term. This means that if and when presidential elections take place in September, the PA will have a new president.
If Hamas and other Palestinian groups insist on banning the elections in the Gaza Strip, the vote would take place in the West Bank only.
Many Palestinians see Mubarak’s departure from the scene as a blow to Abbas, who had maintained a close relation with the former Egyptian president for many years.
“Abbas has lost his important ally in the Arab world,” said a Palestinian editor in Ramallah.
“He always knew that he could rely on Mubarak to help him with the US, Israel and even Hamas.”
Until Friday, the PA had officially banned anti-Mubarak demonstrations in the West Bank. On one occasion, the PA leadership even organized a small pro-Mubarak demonstration in Ramallah.
When dozens of Palestinians tried to stage an anti-Mubarak protest in Ramallah, PA security forces used force to disperse them. Facing criticism from human rights organizations, the PA later permitted one demonstration in support of the anti-government demonstrators in Egypt.
On Saturday, however, the PA leadership voiced support for the Egyptian people’s aspirations, expressing hope that the regime change in Cairo would not affect relations between the two sides.
“Egypt is a great country and a genuine partner of the Palestinians in their struggle to achieve freedom and independence,” said Yasser Abed Rabbo, a senior PLO official and aide to Abbas. “We have no doubt that Egypt will continue to support the Palestinians and their just cause.”
In the Gaza Strip, thousands of Palestinians took to the streets over the weekend to celebrate Mubarak’s departure.
Hamas “congratulated” the Egyptians on getting rid of Mubarak and urged the new leaders in Cairo to reopen the Rafah border crossing.