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Polls' postponement deepens crisis in Palestinian political system

January 26, 2022 at 1:38 pm

Palestinians carry posters depicting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas with a red cross during a protest against him, 22 March 2018 [Ashraf Amra/Apaimages]

On 26 January, 2006, Hamas was officially declared the winner of Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) elections, with more than 60 per cent of the vote, Anadolu News Agency reports.

One year later, a political crisis between Hamas and Fatah led to a political division between them. As a result, the PLC was disabled and the elections were never held since then.

After years of political tides, the Central Elections Commission announced its intention to hold legislative elections in May 2021. But, on 29 April, Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, postponed them to an uncertain date, amid allegations that they would not be held in Jerusalem due to Israeli restrictions.

The postponement resulted in a situation of loss of direction in Palestine’s political system. “There is a serious internal and deep crisis, not just because the elections were cancelled. It has put an end to any chance of Fatah and Hamas reconciling,” Mustafa Barghouthi, a Palestinian politician who is a member of the PLC, told Anadolu Agency.

Barghouthi blamed the Palestinian Authority (PA) for blocking the holding of elections and for not accepting the views that called for the holding of elections in Jerusalem and challenging the Israeli occupation.

“The PA is responsible for this process and it should select a new date for it, especially since all the preparations are ready. They have to give this right for our people after confiscating it for 16 years, and the elections in Jerusalem are not a pretext,” he said.

READ: The PA views Palestine through the lens of collaboration and Israel’s security

Barghouthi, along with other politicians, suggested a plan to hold the elections in Jerusalem and it was approved by the other Palestinian factions. The plan suggested  it be treated as a popular resistance against the occupation and the provisions of the Oslo Accords, which he said are unfair to the people of Jerusalem.

He highlighted that the process of separating the three authorities – judiciary, executive, and legislative – has a significant flaw. The legislative authority has been frozen since 2007, and he claims that the judiciary lacks true independence.

“One of the faces of this dilemma is that the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organisation) is now under the control of the PA,” he said, arguing that it should have been the other way around, with the PLO as a higher political body backed by the PA.

Barghouthi emphasised that this situation weakened the Palestinians and put them at square one with Israel, which is trying to convert the relationship with them to be just a security and economic relationship.

“Israel is now expanding its plans of settlement and annexation, and this will never stop until the PA decides to change its policies internally,” he added.

In a related context, many Palestinian legal activists believe that the cancellation of the elections was due to the PA’s concern over losing.

READ: West Bank security ‘nearing boiling point’

“All the data suggest that the Palestinian Authority’s cancellation of the elections was due to its fear of the results. These results may lead to the removal of the class that monopolises power without democratic popular delegation,” said Ramy Abdu, the head of the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor.

Abdu believes that the escalation of violations by the Palestinian security agencies against the Palestinians recently aimed to form a deterrent state, particularly after the killing of the Palestinian political activist, Nizar Banat, who was one of the candidates for the elections.

“The international community is committing the crime of silence over many violations in the context of the game of interests and fears, which are essentially attacks on the right of peoples to choose their representatives freely and democratically,” Abdu said.

“More than half of the electorate has never voted to elect its leaders, and the PA has to recognise this and change its policies to address this issue. The PA must approve the concept of a democratic partnership,” Barghouthi stressed.

However, he proposes that the development of a “struggle strategy” as an alternative to the Oslo Accords and negotiations with Israel, which have so far failed to find a just solution, may be the way out of this political dilemma.