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The joint list debate for the Palestinian elections is growing

March 2, 2021 at 1:27 pm

Members of the Palestinian Central Elections Commission register voters in the West Bank town of Hebron on 10 February 2021. [HAZEM BADER/AFP via Getty Images]

The features of the electoral lists competing in the upcoming Palestinian Legislative Council election are not yet clear. The only certain thing is that Fatah will ally itself with five Palestinian factions: the Palestinian Democratic Union (FIDA); the Arab Liberation Front (ALF); the Palestinian Popular Struggle Front (PPSF); the Palestinian Liberation Front (PLF); and the Palestinian Arab Front (PAF). They are very marginal groups, and their affiliates or icons of some are still unknown, even to those following the Palestinian issue closely.

Moreover, there are statements by officials in Fatah confirming that the Mohammad Dahlan group within the movement will not be allowed to participate in the elections, neither by forming a single list nor with any other party. It is also unknown whether Marwan Barghouti’s supporters will proceed with the option of forming a list separate from the official Fatah list or if they will choose to run under the main banner.

The most important debate regarding the electoral lists, though, surrounds the possibility of a joint list between Hamas and Fatah. Although the idea is unlikely, strange and even condemned, there are some within their ranks who are enthusiastic and are convinced of its worth or necessity.

READ: What is better for Fatah, a united or two separate electoral lists? 

The motives of those who favour the idea include that it will serve the public interest; find solutions to the polarisation between the two movements; and avoid unwanted consequences if the results of the elections do not favour the Palestinian Authority. The whole idea clashes with what is more important than any of these: the two factions’ approach to the Palestinian issue is different and remain the most important issue which would stop them running on one slate. This difference does not mean fighting or one side resorting to repression of the other. Instead, it means the need for the faction that has become the main face of the resistance to separate its political decisions from those of the “peace process” faction, especially after the PA’s return to security coordination and the resumption of relations with the Israeli occupation authorities.

The idea of any election is to allow voters to choose between programmes that are distinct, but if they find themselves with a list of candidates that brings together those from opposing sides who are proposing an unclear programme, then what is the purpose of the election in the first place? Opting to field a joint list means adding more “illogical” elements to the election equation, and if anyone is still thinking about its feasibility, then putting this option before them will be an additional burden for them to understand and absorb the whole process.

A Palestinian member of Central Elections Commission displays an information leaflet following the opening of the first Voter Information and Registration Centre in Gaza City on 10 February 2021. [MOHAMMED ABED/AFP via Getty Images]

A Palestinian member of Central Elections Commission displays an information leaflet following the opening of the first Voter Information and Registration Centre in Gaza City on 10 February 2021. [MOHAMMED ABED/AFP via Getty Images]

Some people believe that politics can tolerate anything and that pragmatism and alliance possibilities have no restrictions. This may be possible to some extent in stable governments and in countries that are not under occupation. However, in the Palestinian context it appears to be a slippery slope that may undermine the essence of the discourse of constants, even if the aims of joining together under one list are noble. However, they are aims that do not justify the sacrifice of the clear path, the difference in programmes and the seriousness of the discourse on all the issues of the Palestinian cause.

In addition to the fact that the joint list proposal is unrealistic, it will provide strong electoral propaganda for other organisations wanting to get rid of the two major factions and see the emergence of alternative groups on the scene, even though they have no popular backing and no real presence on the ground. This propaganda will only harm Hamas, not Fatah, and will undermine a lot of its discourse on constants, resistance and condemnation of security coordination, especially if we return to the status quo post-election and the PA and its security agencies maintain their current policies. This is a real possibility because that is the functional role of the PA and the essence of its survival.

READ: Why did Hamas make concessions in the Cairo talks? 

The national programme based on the minimum level of consensus is suitable for managing the general national situation and arranging and organising the differences, but not for running in elections based on voters’ choice between different programmes and platforms. Following a forced path does not mean that everything in this path becomes forced, as there are fixed moulds that are difficult to re-form, and trying to bend and shape them may lead to them breaking. If that happens, it will not be possible to restore them to what they were.

Hence, what seems more logical is to have a combination of the factions and personalities supporting resistance under one list, even if there are ideological differences between them. This is if the resistance project is to remain protected; if the liberation ship is rescued nationally from sinking in the sea of compromise and constraints; and if there is a genuine desire to get rid of the Oslo Accords and limit their effects on Palestine and the Palestinians.

This article first appeared in Arabic in the Palestinian Information Centre on 1 March 2021

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.