According to a decree issued by Abbas’s office on Friday, the Palestinian Authority (PA), which has limited self-rule in the occupied West Bank, will hold legislative elections on 22 May and a presidential vote on 31 July.
“The president instructed the election committee and all state apparatuses to launch a democratic election process in all cities of the homeland,” the decree said, referring to the occupied West Bank, Gaza and occupied East Jerusalem.
The statement said Abbas expected polls “in all governorates of Palestine, including East Jerusalem,” which was annexed by Israel following the 1967 war but is considered occupied territory.
The last parliamentary elections for Palestinians took place in 2006 and resulted in a surprise win for Hamas, widening a political rift that led to internecine violence between Hamas and the Fatah movement led by Abbas. When the fighting ended, Hamas remained in charge of the Gaza Strip, with Fatah largely routed from the coastal enclave, while Fatah was the dominant force in the West Bank, creating a political divide that has led to a lengthy delay in setting further elections.
More than two million Palestinians are packed into the Gaza Strip, an area the size of the US city of Detroit. Under blockade by Israel since the Hamas election victory, the Strip has been described as “the world’s largest open-air prison”.