Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas has officially “postponed”, what was to be, the first Palestinian election in 15 years, blaming Israel for not allowing it to take place inside of Jerusalem, but it is clear that the real issue was his fear of losing.
The first Palestinian legislative elections were scheduled to take place on the May 22nd, yet have now been “postponed” by Fatah Party leader and “Palestinian President” Abbas, without any date announced as to when they are to take place in the future. In response to this, Italy, Spain and Germany have all called on Mahmoud Abbas to announce a date on which the elections are to happen, with all expressing their dismay.
Just prior to Abbas’s speech yesterday, thousands of Palestinians took to the streets of Ramallah, where the Palestinian Authority is based in the West Bank, rejecting any cancellation of the elections. More took to the street after the announcement and there has now been speculation that the election cancellation may backfire on Mahmoud Abbas, splitting his party Fatah even further and causing division between it and other parties.
Last Friday, as many as tens of thousands of people gathered to protest the announced cancellation in the besieged Gaza Strip, not wanting to tolerate their current ‘unlivable’ conditions – as the UN has described the coastal enclave – without having any option to change their predicament.
Almost every Palestinian Party was quick to condemn the announcement from Abbas at a meeting boycotted by both Hamas and Islamic Jihad, citing the popular support of the people and their need to have their voices heard in a democracy. Hamas leader, Ismail Hanniyeh, in a televised speech this Friday, declared that the “excuses” of Abbas “are unconvincing” and that as of the meeting hosted in Cairo, in order to decide upon terms for the elections, it was agreed that Israel would get in the way.
The primary excuse that is being used by Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah and those on its payroll, is that they couldn’t have elections without Jerusalem, and if they did, that would mean accepting Israel’s control over all of the land. However, as of the ‘Oslo Accords’ agreements signed in 1993 and 1995, Israel had only ever agreed to allow for roughly 6,000 ballots to be cast inside Jerusalem itself at postal stations, with the rest being cast outside the separation wall. Israel had even caused issues before and no political Party agrees to having elections without Jerusalem.
Fatah Party rival Ismail Hanniyeh mentioned in his speech today that he had suggested placing ballot boxes inside al-Aqsa Mosque, and if Israel attempted to intervene violently to stop democracy then this would be broadcast before the entire world. He also noted that giving up on the elections should not work to cause political division and called for unity between Fatah and Hamas.
According to an unnamed source who spoke to Middle East Eye, reportedly helping to organize Palestinian election logistics, President Abbas had ignored four different solutions presented to him in order to solve the problem of the Jerusalem votes. One of the solutions said to have been presented was to utilize UN offices, which could have facilitated the voting taking place.
The source, for some, affirmed suspicions that Abbas cancelled because of the fear of losing the elections. According to the source, however, the “postponement” wasn’t primarily to do with a Hamas win in the legislative elections, but rather the divisions inside Fatah itself. The source claims to have even overheard Mahmoud Abbas say that the elections became impossible the moment that his biggest rival for President, Marwan Barghouti, got involved.
It was clear that the deeply divided Fatah Party was likely going to suffer a devastating defeat to Hamas in the legislative elections; and in the Presidential elections Marwan Barghouti was seen as the favorite over Abbas.
Mahmoud Abbas has not been elected since 2005, which was supposed to give him a four year term. The truth of the matter is, Mahmoud Abbas is not the Palestinian President. If he can simply “postpone” the elections every single time it looks like he and his party will lose, then what he exists as is a dictator. But in this case he isn’t even worthy of that title as he is not the one dictating what happens in Palestine – Israel and the United States are.
The DFLP, PFLP and PIJ Parties have all condemned Thursday’s decision as well. PIJ’s Secretary General, Ziyad Nakhalah, said on Friday that the Palestinian people must be presented a unified national program to confront Israel. He also called out the current status quo, stating that “since the signing of the Oslo Accords it has been proven that the attempt to coexist with the occupation, through elections and to live in full freedom, is nothing but false illusions,” going on to condemn the PA for collaborating with Israeli forces.
At a time when the entire Palestinian population has organically come together, in order to stand up for Jerusalem whilst under Israeli attack, it is rather telling that the so-called President is working to cause internal fighting rather than unite his people. Instead of showing his care for East Jerusalem as a future capital, Abbas has just done what those on his payroll accuse his critics of advocating for; he has given up the territory to Israel making him a traitor to the cause. There was not even a fight, he just bowed down and robbed an entire people of what should be their right to vote. This was done for Israel and to keep his position of power.