EU: Palestinian poll delay ‘deeply disappointing’

Palestinian president's decision to postpone elections threatens political system: analysts


RAMALLAH, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ decision to postpone the long-awaited general elections is threatening the Palestinian political system and increasing the internal division between Fatah and Hamas, Palestinian analysts warned.


The analysts told Xinhua in several separate interviews that postponing the elections “will disappoint the Palestinian people who were always eager to unify their public institutions in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and strengthen their internal unity.”


Early on Friday, Abbas announced in a televised speech that the 2021 elections scheduled for May 22 will be postponed until further notice, saying that the Palestinian leadership has decided “to postpone the election until the participation of our people in East Jerusalem is guaranteed.”


In January, Abbas announced the elections will include the legislative elections on May 22, the presidential elections on July 31, and the elections of the Palestinian National Council, the highest decision-making body of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), on Aug. 31.


The last Palestinian presidential elections were held in March 2005, and the legislative elections in January 2006. The Palestinian public opinion has repeatedly demanded to hold the elections to end an internal split that has been lasting since 2007.

“The decision to postpone the elections has political motives emphasizing the Palestinian commitment to East Jerusalem as the capital of the future Palestinian state,” said Abdulmajid Sweilem, a political analyst from the West Bank city of Ramallah.


He said the postponement was made following a thorough study by the Palestinian leadership “to boost the Palestinian pressure towards holding elections later in an honorable manner in all the Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem.”


Sweilem said he believes that sticking to holding the elections in East Jerusalem “had imposed a new political fait accompli on Israel and the international community to bring the holy city to the forefront of the Palestinian cause.”


The issue of East Jerusalem, which was occupied by Israel in 1967, is one of the most sensitive issues for the Palestinians, who wanted it to be the capital of their future independent Palestinian state.


Israel does not allow the Palestinian Authority to carry out political activities in the city. However, according to the Oslo peace accords signed with Israel, the Palestinians in East Jerusalem are allowed to vote at the Israeli post offices in the city.


After the United States recognized the city as the capital of Israel at the end of 2017, it is believed by Palestinian politicians that holding the elections in East Jerusalem with the participation of about 400,000 Palestinians living in the city has important political implications.



“Postponing elections will keep the Palestinian situation faltering and will keep the political system in a state of stagnation given the lack of renewal of legitimacy for the Palestinian leadership,” said Hani Musa, another political analyst from Ramallah.


The Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) and 28 other electoral lists in the Gaza Strip slammed Abbas’ postponement of the elections.


Hamas’ spokesman in Gaza Abdul Latif Al-Qanou said in a statement that the postponement of the elections contradicts the national consensus and the popular support.


“The postponement of the elections is a coup against what was agreed upon in Cairo in February,” he said.


Ahmad Rafiq Awwad, a political science professor at Palestine’s Al-Quds University, told Xinhua that the absence of a national consensus “threatens the Palestinian situation with a state of political vacuum.”


He warned the decision will bring the Palestinian rivals back to the square of the internal division.


Postponing the elections may lead to security tension with Israel, and a state of chaos that may prevail by all standards with internal and external clashes with Israel at the same time, he added.


Mustafa Ibrahim, a political analyst from Gaza, said that postponing the elections “threatens to get the Palestinian political arena into further division and fragmentation.”


He highlighted the state of popular frustration with the postponement and the continued lack of access to the ballots to renew the legitimacy of the Palestinian political system.


The Palestinian Central Elections Commission announced that 36 electoral lists have got registered for the legislative elections, among which are Hamas and Fatah. The rest of the lists include left-wing parties, independent figures, the young, and women.


The elections commission said it was suspending the election process following Abbas’ decision. The election campaign was supposed to begin on Friday.



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