Calls for Palestinian elections are welcome, but under what conditions?

PA President Mahmoud Abbas delivering a speech 15 August 2018

Robert Andrews writes in Middle East Monitor:

The turn of the year triggers a strong feeling that for change to begin the new decade and year must begin with positive work on the provision of elections in Palestine.

Long overdue following a protracted electoral hiatus, Palestinian legislative and presidential elections are a vital component of bridging the institutional illegitimacy and accountability gap that has characterised Palestinian governance hitherto. Absent of popular support and operating on an internally elected mandate, the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority has for the last decade increasingly adopted authoritarian tactics as a means to repress dissent, while presiding over economic mismanagement that has markedly hastened donor aid dependency.

With the Palestine issue is now at a clear crossroads following the acceleration US-Israeli designs that harm the possibility of a realistic model for Palestinian self-determination, the provision of elections provides the opportunity to introduce renewed leadership based on popular support in the hope of facilitating reconciliation, unity and a restrategising of the Palestine question. The importance of allowing the Palestinian people to choose their future leaders at what is arguably one of the most difficult times in their struggle for self-determination can not be overstated in light of these circumstances.

Key to making the Palestinian electoral process happen is Europe. An important actor in the Palestine issue, Europe has the unique ability to help facilitate the electoral process given its ability to operate as a mediator that is received as a more impartial bloc than the US; it also has enough tangible leverage against both sides to exert influence that is effective.

For Europe too, supporting elections in Palestine makes sense. Europe has long viewed itself as a key player in the Palestinian state-building process and the bloc’s post-road map policy towards the peace process has coalesced on the idea of “democracy now, peace later”. The latter has indeed influenced European state-building initiatives such as EUPOL COPPS and EUBAM Rafah. Europe also knows that supporting elections makes sense in light of the fact that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is turning 85 this year and in the advent of his passing there will likely be a power vacuum in which elections may be held without European technical assistance or support, and in a climate in which internal developments are harder to manage and control.

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