UN welcomes Palestinian decision to postpone elections four months

Published October 5th, 2016 - 08:00 GMT
Palestinians demonstrate against suspension of election on 9 September. (AFP/File)
Palestinians demonstrate against suspension of election on 9 September. (AFP/File)

The United Nations Tuesday expressed its support for the Palestinian Authority (PA)'s decision to postpone municipal elections for four months with the intent of holding elections in the entirety of the occupied Palestinian territory, after a Supreme Court decision to exclude the Gaza Strip from elections was met with political backlash.

Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov released a statement saying that the decision to postpone elections was "in the national interest of the Palestinian people," adding that when elections do take place they must be organized in the West Bank and the besieged Gaza Strip.

Mladenov urged Palestinian political bodies to "work together in good faith to overcome internal divisions and uphold democracy," and underscored the need for elections to be held according to international standards that can "contribute to advancing Palestinian reconciliation based on PLO principles as well as to ending the occupation and establishing a democratic, unified Palestinian state as part of a negotiated two-state solution."

On Sept. 8, the Supreme Court ordered a halt on municipal elections that were scheduled to be held on Oct. 8. in both the occupied West Bank and the besieged Gaza Strip.

The Fatah-controlled Supreme Court said at the time that the decision was in response to several appeals submitted by lawyers challenging the legitimacy of elections that would not include occupied East Jerusalem, stating that any administrative procedure must be conducted in every region of Palestine.

However, on Monday the Supreme Court ruled in favor of holding the elections on Oct. 8 as initially planned, but only in the occupied West Bank.

The ruling caused backlash for its exclusion of the Gaza Strip, with the Hamas movement accusing Fatah of being behind the "deeply politicized" decision.

The Central Elections Commission (CEC) stated on Monday that excluding the Gaza Strip from elections would only worsen the Palestinian political situation, and recommended that the elections be postponed for six months to give time to organize the electoral process.

After a meeting held in Hebron, Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah said that the PA had decided to follow the CEC's recommendation and postpone the elections.

"The Palestinian Cabinet, in consultation with President Mahmoud Abbas, decided to postpone the local elections for four months," Hamdallah said. "The elections will be held on the same day in all governorates, taking in consideration all legal procedures."

Hamdallah did not specify whether East Jerusalem would be involved.

However, Hamas rejected the PA's decision to postpone the elections.

"We consider the government's decision to postpone the election as an attempt to evade the election to serve Fatah's interests," Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said during a press conference in Gaza, accusing Fatah of having no respect for the judicial system.

Abu Zuhri called upon the CEC to resume the electoral process to counter Fatah's attempts to "ignite an electoral crisis" to cover its political stances, notably taking a stab at Abbas' recent attendance at the funeral of former Israeli President Shimon Peres.

Meanwhile, Fatah spokesman Osama al-Qawasmi said that the decision to postpone the elections proved Abbas and Fatah's keenness to achieve national unity and pave the way for future presidential and legislative elections.

He called Hamas' accusations "bogus," saying that they served the Islamist movement's partisan interests, further claiming that Hamas' alleged targeting of Fatah in the besieged Gaza Strip ahead of the election was the main reason behind the current political and legal crisis.

A poll released by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR) last week found that 61 percent of respondents were displeased by the Supreme Court's initial decision to postpone the municipal elections, with 60 percent believing that the decision was politically motivated.

Prior to their cancellation, the municipal elections were set to be the first in the Gaza Strip in a decade, after Hamas' victory in the 2006 vote erupted into a violent conflict between Hamas and Fatah, as both groups attempted to take control of the besieged coastal enclave.

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