After more than a decade of political strife, rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas have agreed to hold elections for the first time in Palestine in nearly 15 years.
According to the officials from both sides, polls will be scheduled within six months and priority will be given to holding legislative elections, followed then by presidential elections of the Palestinian Authority (PA), and the central council of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).
The agreement was announced on Thursday amid talks between Fatah and Hamas officials in the Turkish city of Istanbul, which are expected to continue into the coming days to discuss details of the election process and further reconciliation efforts.
Leaders from both factions welcomed the agreement, describing the meetings as “positive, fruitful and constructive.”
Secretary-General of the Central Committee of Fatah Movement Jibril Rajoub said “we reached a clear vision of the mechanisms for building national partnership through proportional representation elections,” adding that the mechanisms of holding elections in places like Israeli-controlled occupied East Jerusalem were still being discussed.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas praised the decision in front of the 75th Session of the UN General Assembly on Friday, saying: “Here we are, despite all the obstacles that you know too well, preparing ourselves to hold parliamentary elections, followed by presidential elections, with the participation of all factions and political parties.”
The last time Palestinian elections were held was in 2006, when Hamas won in a huge upset to Fatah, the party of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Following failed attempts to form a unity government, bloody clashes between the two factions broke out in the Gaza Strip, resulting in the ousting of Fatah from the territory.
Since then, Hamas has ruled over Gaza, while the Fatah-led PA has ruled over the occupied West Bank.
Both parties have tried and failed numerous times over the past decade to achieve national reconciliation and hold elections.
In the meantime, animosity and distrust among the Palestinian public towards Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has grown significantly, as his government has prioritized consolidating power and suppressing dissenting voices over promoting free democratic elections.
The newest agreement comes amid a trying time for Palestinian leaders, as their Arab counterparts in the UAE and Bahrain have signed normalization deals with Israel — a trend that is expected to grow among other Arab nations in the coming weeks and months.