Report: Clouds of uncertainty looming over Palestinian elections

Report: Clouds of uncertainty looming over Palestinian elections

Palestine is planned to hold parliamentary elections on May 15, years after its last legislative vote.

AhlulBayt News Agency (ABNA): Palestine is planned to hold parliamentary elections on May 15, years after its last legislative vote.

In January, President Mahmoud Abbas of Palestinian Authority announced schedules for vote, saying general, presidential, and Palestinian National Council elections will be held consecutively on May 22, July 31, and in August.

But now, in the midst of the political factions' preparation for polls, on-date holding of them remains a matter of ambiguity. Palestinian officials in Ramallah have said that voting will not take place without the participation of Palestinians in Eastern Al-Quds (Jerusalem).

While the Israeli regime is swept by a crisis caused by a failure to form a new cabinet, Palestinian officials say Tel Aviv has not yet responded to a formal request for permission to make voting arrangements for the in Eastern Al-Quds. Many believe that the Israeli officials are unlikely to allow Palestinian candidates, especially Hamas's, to vote or campaign inside the city.

In a statement last week, Hamas said that the Israeli security forces arrested Naji al-Assi, the group's leading candidate in the West Bank, in a raid at his home. According to the Gaza-based Palestinian movement, al-Assi was the second candidate from the group who was arrested by the Israelis in a week. Earlier, the Israeli army arrested Hassan al-Wardian, another Hamas candidate in the Palestinian legislative election, at his home in the West Bank city of Bethlehem.

The Israeli officials follow closely activities of the Palestinian Authority in Al-Quds, especially after the previous US President Donald Trump recognized al-Quds as the permanent capital of the Israeli regime and moved the American embassy from Tel Aviv to the city. They read the Palestinian Authority's activities in the city a violation of their sovereignty.

Palestinian officials this week and after a meeting discussing status of Al-Quds and voting arrangements there said no to elections without Eastern al-Quds participation.

"There will be no Palestinian elections without al-Quds, and Israel possesses no veto to this,” the Palestinian factions said in a joint statement following the meeting.

According to an earlier" interim agreement" between the Israelis and the Palestinians, Palestinians residing in Eastern al-Quds voted in 1996, 2005, and 2006 elections. An agreement on West Bank and Gaza Strip was signed in Washington in 1995, and special annexes in it covered Palestinian electoral issues.

The article 6 of the Annex II, suggests: "A number of Palestinians of Jerusalem will vote in the elections through services rendered in post offices in Jerusalem, in accordance with the capacity of such post offices."

In 1996, 5367 Palestinians were allowed by Tel Aviv regime to vote, with 5 post offices providing services to them.

In 2005 and 2006, the post offices became 6, serving 6300 voters. Other Palestinians voted in polling stations in the city outskirts. Eastern al-Quds' population is estimated to be over 340,000.

Also under the Oslo Accords, signed between Israelis and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1993 and 1995, Tel Aviv commits to certain procedures under which Palestinian elections are held, allowing Palestinians in Eastern al-Quds to vote at post offices.

Having in mind that not holding the elections in al-Quds risks canceling the elections in other parts, the Israelis may have motivations to obstruct the planned Palestinian polls. Israeli leaders fear that in the upcoming elections, the pro-resistance camp led by Hamas can take a lead that would deliver West Bank to the movement in addition to Gaza. This is a source of fear because in case of Hamas victory, the Palestinian division would give place to national unity.

The spokesman to Hamas elections lists, dubbed "our destination", in a press conference in Ramallah told the journalists: "Obviously Israel is worried about the election because it knows the division in Palestine will end."

Despite that, the elections are not canceled yet. About 93 percent of the eligible voters have registered to vote. 36 lists are presented and verified.

Hamas accused Abbas of capitalizing on the Israeli obstructions to" flee from the electoral path."

"We refuse to postpone the elections on any pretext,” senior Hamas official Mousa Abu Marzouq posted on Twitter last week.

Speculations inside Palestine and outside it have been circulating massively, suggesting that Abbas, fearing possible loss to his rivals in Fattah or to rival movement Hamas, will call for vote delay or even cancelation.


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