The Palestinian Authority’s high court has delayed elections, once set for Oct. 9, because of concerns that it was impossible to ensure free and fair voting in the Gaza.
The decision comes as two rival Palestinian parties, Hamas in Gaza and Fatah in the West Bank, continue to struggle for power. The last time Palestinians held an election in both places was 2005, which ended in the election of Hamas and a subsequently worsening feud between the two groups. In 2012, Gaza boycotted another round of elections.
A Fatah spokesman in Gaza said that the cancellation was the fault of Hamas, and that courts there were illegitimate.
“All the appeals that were presented against our electoral lists in Gaza were political and meant to deprive Fatah from its right in participation in the elections,” said Fawsi Abu Atiea . “We were removed from five municipalities in the Gaza Strip, how the elections would take place.”
“Reckless” deeds by Hamas were behind the sudden change, he added.
Jamil el-Khaldi, chairman of the Gaza office of the Central Elections Commission, said that Hamas objections were lawful. He said Fatah’s electoral lists were wiped out in five municipalities in the Gaza Strip and two municipalities in the West Bank.
One Gaza based analyst felt the move was purely political.
“If they were not sure over the overall situation in Gaza and the West Bank, why did they decide to hold an election in the first place,” Ibrahim el-Madhoun said. “It is shameful and totally unacceptable that the Palestinian judiciary system serves particular political interests and does not abide with the Palestinian people’s aspirations.”
He said Fatah was worried about Hamas gaining more political power.
“The West Bank matters for the Palestinian Authority, and they do not want to lose that stronghold and be replaced by Hamas. Also, pressure on the Palestinian Authority from the international community has recently mounted, ending up with the election’s cancellation,” el-Madhoun added.
Both Fatah backers and Hamas supporters expressed outrage.
Sami Abu Zohri, Hamas spokesperson, said that the “catastrophic” decision would worsen the divisions in the Palestinian community further and enhance the separation between Gaza and the West Bank. Hamas has controlled Gaza since 2007, after severe internecine conflict between both sides.
“The PA takes the decisions by its own and does not comply with the national consensus which supports holding free and democratic elections to administer better services to our citizens,” he added.
Different Palestinian factions including Islamic Jihad, and the People’s Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) held a meeting in Gaza in which they expressed their anger at the choice.
Khader Habieb, leader of Islamic Jihad, said that the Palestinian Authority has totally ignored the Palestinian electoral law.
“They are acting in the way their own interests dictate them. They did not respect the Honor Charter that we have signed before we initiated the preparations of the elections,” he said.
Polls also reflect the division, Qudspress reported, citing a Roya Center survey on the cancellation, suggest that over two-thirds of the Palestinian people oppose the suspension of the elections, more than half of them said that the decision by the court had political motivations. Two-thirds of respondents said they had been planning to vote, and that elections are important to make peace between Palestinian factions.