RAMALLAH, Feb 13 (JMCC) - After the surprise announcement Saturday that the Palestinian Authority
would hold presidential and parliamentary elections before September, Palestinian politicians scrambled to process the news.
Protests in Egypt had sparked discussions about the legitimacy of the Palestinian leadership, but few had expected an announcement so quickly.
I think the decision by the PLO
is a reaction to what is going on in Egypt and Tunisia, says analyst Eyad Barghouthi. Maybe it isn't so serious.
While the largest opposition group Hamas
quickly rejected the poll, they were not the only ones to question the elections plans.
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine has also said that it will not participate in the vote.
Democracy is required by the entire Palestinian people, PFLP
representative Khalida Jarrar told Voice of Palestine radio. But given regional developments [the question is] if we even need a legislative council and a presidency?
Jarrar went on to say that the leftist faction supported efforts to bring together Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip
, with the Fateh
-dominated Palestinian Authority in the West Bank
Ending the Palestinian national split is the first priority, she said, and moves have begun in the direction of urging the Palestinian leadership to pursue this track.
The move to elections comes from the common recognition that the Palestinian leadership needs to renew its legitimacy, say politicians.
General elections were last held in 2006, resulting in a victory for Hamas. But the Islamist group, considered a terrorist organization in the West, was largely prevented from governing by an international funding boycott. By the summer of 2007, enmity between Hamas and Fateh had erupted into armed clashes, with Hamas taking over Palestinian Authority security installations in the Gaza Strip.
Subsequently, the Palestinian Authority formed a new cabinet in the West Bank and froze the work of the Hamas-dominated legislature. Both the president and the parliament have now outlasted their electoral terms.
But while holding elections might shore up the standing of Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas
and his cabinet, it seems only likely to solidify the political division of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, say observers.
As such, some smaller Palestinian factions responded to the call with some ambivalence. People
leader Bassam al-Salhi proposed that by the time elections are held, steps should be taken to implement an agreement between Fateh and Hamas that was being negotiated by Egypt.
We suggest the formation of a national unity government that could manage the agreements under the auspices of the Egyptian paper and prepare for holding elections, Salhi said.
Some hold out hope that a change in the leadership of Egypt will open the way to an agreement between Fateh and Hamas. I think that the agenda of the regime was not suitable, says Barghouti. If the agenda of the Egyptian regime is closer to Palestinian national needs, then maybe the problem can be solved.
But as long as Hamas remains on western terrorism lists, the kind of power-sharing arrangement that would reunite Palestinians and their cause appears far off.