2021 Palestinian general election
The 2021 Palestinian general election will include legislative elections being held on 22 May 2021, presidential elections on 31 July and the Palestinian National Council elections on 31 August 2021 according to a decree by Mahmoud Abbas on 15 January 2021. Hamas welcomed the announcement. According to Hanna Nasser, chairman of the Palestinian Central Elections Commission, "about two million Palestinians in Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza Strip are eligible to vote." The UN and the EU welcomed the development.
The elections had been previously scheduled between February and March 2021 and before that, were scheduled to be held in April and October 2014 in accordance with the Fatah–Hamas Gaza Agreement of April 2014. However, the elections were then delayed indefinitely. In October 2017, Hamas and Fatah signed a reconciliation deal in which Hamas agreed to dissolve the unity government in Gaza and hold general elections by the end of 2018, but the elections again were not held. Mahmoud Abbas announced on 26 September 2019 at a speech held at the UN General Assembly that he intends to set a date for elections once he returns to the West Bank. Hamas responded by indicating that it is ready to hold "comprehensive and general elections", but on 6 November Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) rejected Abbas's terms for holding elections, which required candidates to recognize the agreements signed by the PLO to be able to run. On 11 November 2019, Abbas said that there would be no new Palestinian elections unless they include east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. On 26 November 2019, Hamas confirmed that it had agreed with the Palestinian Central Elections Commission to participate in elections and that Hamas will not accept the exclusion of Jerusalem under any circumstances. Abbas announced in early December that elections will take place in a few months. On 10 December 2019, the Palestinian Authority asked Israel to allow East Jerusalem residents to vote in the planned elections, a request that Israeli officials said would now go to the security cabinet.
Background[edit source | edit]
Mahmoud Abbas was elected President of the Palestinian National Authority on 9 January 2005, for a four-year term ending on 9 January 2009. The last elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council were held on 25 January 2006. There have been no new elections either for president or for the legislature since these two elections; democratic elections in the State of Palestine since these dates have been for local offices only.
Fatah–Hamas conflict[edit source | edit]
In September 2008 it was suggested that Abbas' term be extended one year or that the Palestinian Legislative Council be dissolved a year early in order to hold both elections at the same time. Hamas objected to holding simultaneous elections, arguing that the presidential election should have been held in January 2009 and the parliamentary elections in 2010. Hamas also claimed that the speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council, Aziz al-Dewik, who is a Hamas member, became the Palestinian president after Abbas' term ended on 9 January 2009, until new elections are held.
Fatah argued that elections should have been held in January 2010, since the Palestinian election law calls for presidential and legislative council elections to be held simultaneously, four years after the date of the later. Since the legislative council elections were held in 2006 (a year after the presidential election), new elections for both should have been held in January 2010. In reconciliation talks held in Cairo, Egypt in March 2009, Hamas and Fatah agreed to hold the elections by 25 January 2010. In the end, because of the Fatah–Hamas conflict, the issue of new elections remained unresolved.
In February 2010, local government elections were called in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip for July 2010. The West Bank Palestinian government decided to postpone the elections, arguing that it wanted to safeguard "national unity". In December 2010, the Palestinian High Court of Justice ruled that once cabinet calls elections, it does not have authority to cancel them. After being postponed several times the local government elections took place in October and November 2012 and covered only the West Bank.
Attempts to resolve election issue[edit source | edit]
Presidential and parliamentary election to the Palestinian Authority were postponed several times because of intra-Palestinian political disputes between Fatah and Hamas, from the original date of 17 July 2010.
In February 2011, following the resignation of Saeb Erekat as chief negotiator with Israel for the Israeli–Palestinian peace process following the release of the Palestine Papers, which were harshly critical of the PLO's concessions, the PLO Executive Committee announced intentions to hold elections before October. Abbas's followed the announcement with calls for "the spirit of change in Egypt" to inspire Palestinian unity. His aide Yasser Abed Rabbo said: "The Palestinian leadership decided to hold presidential and legislative elections within September. It urges all the sides to put their differences aside."
Fawzi Barhoum, a spokesman for Hamas, said that Abbas does not have the legitimacy to make the electoral call. "Hamas will not take part in this election. We will not give it legitimacy. And we will not recognize the results."
In October 2011, Abbas sent a proposal to Hamas for another general election, preferably to be held in early 2012. It was suggested that Hamas would be more willing to participate in another election following the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange, which boosted Hamas' standing in Gaza. In November 2011, an election date on 4 May 2012 was preliminarily agreed on. However, due to further bickering, the election could not be held by that date.
On 20 December 2013 Hamas called on the Palestinian Authority to form a six-month national unity government that would finally hold the long-delayed general election. Following the upgrade of the UN status of Palestine to non-member observer state, it was proposed that general state elections would follow in 2013, in line with unity talks of Fatah and Hamas. In April 2014 agreement was reached between Fatah and Hamas to form a unity government, which took place on 2 June 2014, and for general elections to take place within 6 months of the agreement.
Electoral law changes[edit source | edit]
In 2007, President Mahmoud Abbas of the Fatah party unilaterally changed the electoral laws of 2005 from being half proportionally elected and half constituency/first past the post-based to full proportional representation. He insisted he could issue the change by decree as long as the Palestinian Legislative Council was unable to convene.
The move was seen as a bid to lessen the chances of Hamas in the next election. Hamas, which controls the PLC, declared the move illegal.
Presidential election[edit source | edit]
Fatah renominated Abbas as their candidate for the next presidential elections in early June 2008, although reports in December suggested that he would not run for a second term. Rumours emerged again on 28 October 2009 of Abbas not running for another term; on 5 November he publicly announced his intention not to run for reelection, though he said he would stay until the next presidential election.
Opinion polls[edit source | edit]
A December 2020 poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research found that Fatah would win 38% of the vote and Hamas would win 34%. The same poll also found 52 percent of Palestinians think elections held under present conditions would not be fair and free. A number of obstacles to a successful election remain.
References[edit source | edit]
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