Mahmoud Abbas to set date for new elections by January 20

Written by on January 11, 2021

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is expected to announce by January 20 the dates for holding elections for the PA presidency, parliament and the Palestine National Council (the PLO’s legislative body).

Abbas met on Saturday with Dr. Hanna Nasir, chairman of the Palestinian Central Elections Committee, and discussed preparations for holding the elections.

The committee needs at least 120 days to prepare for the elections, it said Sunday. Its staff in the West Bank and Gaza Strip is ready to prepare for the general elections as soon as Abbas announces the dates, it said.

Once Abbas sets dates for the elections, several Palestinian factions will meet in Cairo to discuss issues related to the voting.

Abbas’s renewed talk about holding general elections is aimed at sending a message to the incoming administration of US President-elect Joe Biden and the European Union that the PA leadership is serious about its intention to allow Palestinians to vote.

Earlier this month, Abbas announced that Hamas has agreed to his idea of holding separate elections for the presidency, parliament and the Palestine National Council.

Hamas had demanded that the elections for the three bodies take place at the same time.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh met on Sunday in Doha with Emir of Qatar Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and discussed various issues, including preparations for holding long-overdue Palestinian general elections.

Sources close to Hamas expressed cautious optimism regarding the prospects of holding new elections. Even if Abbas issues “presidential decrees” setting dates for the elections, it would take weeks, if not months, to overcome various obstacles, they said.

The main obstacle remains the PA security crackdown on Hamas members in the West Bank, the sources said. Another obstacle is whether Israel will allow east Jerusalem residents to participate in the Palestinian elections, they added.

Abbas and Hamas have said there would be no elections without the participation of east Jerusalem residents.

In the past, Israel allowed east Jerusalem residents who hold Israeli-issued ID cards to participate in the elections for the Palestinian parliament, known as the Palestinian Legislative Council.

The last Palestinian presidential election was held on January 9, 2005, when Abbas was elected for a four-year term, becoming the second PA president. Yasser Arafat was the first.

The last parliamentary election, held in January 2006, resulted in a Hamas victory and triggered a power struggle between the Gaza-based Islamist movement and Abbas’s Fatah faction.

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