The Thorny Road to the Palestinian Elections: Will the Path Be Blocked?

The Palestinian Central Elections Committee announced the approval of 5 candidate lists out of 15 submitted to run for the Palestinian legislative elections which are due on May 22. The remaining lists are currently being examined for final approval. The due date of submitting lists is March 31, and the final announcement of approved lists is about a week later on April 6.

While Hamas, independent candidates and Fatah’s reformist faction, led by Mohamed Dahlan, finished the candidacy procedures and submitted their lists; Fatah declared postponing the submission to the final day stressing its adherence to conducting the elections on time. Some of its leaders such as Azzam Al-Ahmed and Abdullah Abdullah confirmed this.

Nevertheless, there are obstacles that could influence the electoral process. Although Fatah insists on conducting the elections in Al-Quds (to allow both voters and candidates to participate), the occupation insists on not allowing them there. Fatah urged the international community to exercise pressure on the occupation to allow the elections’ conduct in Al-Quds.

Another obstacle is the division and disconnectedness among Fatah’s members. So far, Fatah has four factions running for the elections headed by Mohamed Dahlan, prisoner Marwan Al-Barghouti, fired leader Nasser Al-Qidwa, and Mahmoud Abbas, who is heading the movement’s official list. President Abbas failed to exercise pressure on his opponents to force them into one list under his leadership. The gap within Fatah continues to expand drastically.

The other lists and parties participating in the elections are concerned over Fatah’s internal division. If Fatah, the PA and their allies feel incapable of winning the elections, the elections may be hindered.

Recent calls between the occupation and President Abbas have further incited such feelings. The occupation’s security officials expressed their dissatisfaction with Fatah’s ability to compete in the elections. In addition, there have been leaks about President Abbas sending envoys to persuade the American Administration of the importance of delaying the elections and ensuring its political and financial support. The occupation, Egypt and Jordan all support this decision.

The occupation also informed the international observers, mainly the Europeans, not to attend the elections in its attempt to fight the Coronavirus.

Insight of the Situation

  1. The series of events and procedures since President Abbas’ issuance of the presidential decrees indicates the seriousness of the factions and the PA in conducting the Palestinian elections and legalizing the Palestinian bodies and politics.
  2. Fatah’s preparations for elections resulted in internal division and disconnectedness as three factions appeared and competed against President Abbas’ list: Al-Barghouti, Dahlan and Al-Qidwa.
  3. President Abbas insists on excluding and chasing down any opposing voices that work against his visions and policies through arbitrary measures such as legal chase and elimination. The most recent measure was the formation of legal committees whose task was to discredit the competing lists in the elections, mainly his own rivals within Fatah. 
  4. Hamas is considered the biggest winner of Fatah’s disorientation and division. ‘Israeli’ security officials predict that the elections would weaken Fatah and Abbas’ leadership, and would strengthen Hamas’ presence in the West Bank and the Palestinian ruling system.
  5. The disconnected Fatah has become a main concern for observers and other lists participating in the Palestinian elections. They fear that Fatah would turn against the elections if they realize they are going to lose and their reputation would drop. The ambitions of Abbas and his representatives constitute a major element in feeding this perception. 

Possible Scenarios

  1. The elections would be conducted on due time, and the PA would adhere to the timing. What supports the realization of this scenario is the popular and factions’ alignment in the Palestinian community, and the international pressure exercised on the PA to conduct the elections and legalize the governing institutions whose work has been disabled for over 15 years.
  2. Fatah and the PA would turn against the conduct of elections. The division and disconnectedness within Fatah support this scenario. The PA and Fatah might use the occupation’s prevention of elections in Al-Quds or international observers from participation as an excuse for cancelling the elections.
  3. Abbas would call for delaying the elections until Fatah is united once again under one list that ensures active and powerful participation in the coming elections. Abbas and Al-Barghouti’s dialogues together and attempt to bridge the gap are factors in supporting the realization of this scenario.

It is expected that President Abbas’ decision remains the same and he would exclude his rivals. This would widen the gap inside Fatah. The coming elections and time of execution depend on the positions of America and the international community that controls the PA’s resources. President Abbas will try his best to avoid seeming the reason behind canceling the elections as doing so would add to his record of failure. He might exploit certain obstacles, excuses or reasons for the delay or canceling of elections.

Source : PALM Strategic Initiatives Centre