Are the Palestinians really going to the polls?

Counting votes at a polling station in Ramallah on 20 October 2012

Motasem A Dalloul writes in Middle East Monitor:

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas issued a presidential decree on Friday to hold parliamentary, presidential and Palestinian National Council elections on 22 May, 31 July and 31 August respectively. This was the first such decree in fifteen years for the Palestinians in the occupied territories including the Gaza Strip, West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The announcement followed a few major amendments to the election law. “Amending the election law is an important step before issuing the presidential decrees related to setting a date for holding the legislative, presidential and National Council elections,” explained Hisham Kuhail, executive director of the Central Elections Commission.

However, these amendments restrict candidates for the elections to the Palestine Liberation Organisation factions and those figures who recognise the PLO as the sole, legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. This means that Hamas and Islamic Jihad – two major Palestinian factions — will apparently be unable to participate in the elections. Hamas and the other factions have welcomed the presidential decree, but called for a national dialogue to agree on the election arrangements.

The article which states these conditions reads: “[Any candidate for president or the PLC] must recognise the PLO as the only legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, and must recognise the Independence Document and the rulings of the Basic Law.”

The devil certainly is in the detail. We can expect lengthy and possibly open-ended discussions which could dent the hopes of millions of Palestinians who want an end to the 15-year-old political division and have a united leadership able to deal with the challenges they face.

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