Palestinian parties urged to remove obstacles to local elections in Gaza and the West Bank
Gaza City: Hamas rejected plans to hold municipal elections in the Gaza Strip – as in the West Bank – as the Palestinian Authority was preparing for the second phase of elections in March.
More than 100 Palestinian NGOs have issued a petition calling on Hamas and Fatah to remove any administrative, technical, or legal obstacles, and to ensure that local elections are held in Gaza and the West Bank.
The Director of the NGOs Network in Gaza, Amjad Al-Shawa, said that the agreement to hold local elections will restore hope to the Palestinian people in the possibility of achieving internal reconciliation.
Hamas and Fatah failed to achieve internal Palestinian reconciliation after several attempts.
The NGOs said that holding the local elections will push the process towards completing the rest of the legislative and presidential elections.
Hamas presented three demands to the Palestinian Authority to participate and allow the second phase of local elections to take place in the Gaza Strip.
In a letter sent to the Palestinian Central Elections Committee, Hamas demanded the holding of comprehensive, simultaneous or consecutive elections in which local elections would be a part of it and not a substitute for it.
Hamas sought a written pledge from President Mahmoud Abbas to ensure that the elections would not be canceled at the last minute, and also wants to cancel the amendments he made to the municipal elections law.
Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem said that the movement does not want partial elections.
He said that the movement’s demands are in line with national aspirations and should be discussed within the framework of a “serious national dialogue to discuss elections at all levels and set specific timetables with written guarantees that they will be respected.”
Hamas wants comprehensive Palestinian elections for the Legislative Council, the presidency, and the National Council as agreed nationally – either simultaneously or consecutively.
Abbas postponed indefinitely the legislative elections that were scheduled to take place last May, citing Israel’s refusal to hold them in Jerusalem.
The Central Elections Committee announced that it had received an official letter from Hamas containing its position on the second phase of the local elections scheduled for March 26.
The Director of the Regional Office of the Electoral Commission in Gaza, Jamil Al-Khalidi, confirmed that this stage of the elections will not take place in Gaza, according to Hamas’ message.
He said that the letter included “political demands” that Hamas identified as a basis for agreeing to participate and hold elections in Gaza.
The demands relate to the electoral law, such as canceling the formation of the electoral court, and returning the jurisdiction to decide on appeals to the courts of first instance in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Hanna Nasser, head of the committee, responded to Hamas in a written letter.
He stressed that Hamas’ demands “are political and require addressing the political level regarding them.”
The head of the committee said that the commission has an executive mission and it is not within its competence to decide on those political issues.
The commission believes that it is currently impossible to hold local elections in Gaza due to the lack of time before the voter registration process for the local elections, which are expected to start in a few days.
The first phase of local elections was partially held in early December in 154 local councils in villages and towns in the West Bank, but not in the Gaza Strip.
Hamas has controlled the situation in the coastal enclave since the division in mid-2007.
The Palestinian Local Elections Law stipulates that “elections are held every four years by a decision of the Council of Ministers, provided that the term of membership of the Council is four years, and it continues to carry out business until the elections are held.”
The last local elections were held in the West Bank in 2017, when Hamas also refused to hold them in Gaza.