The Palestinian Dialogue on the Elections

The dialogue between the Palestinian factions in Cairo ended as they agreed to establish an elections court, and guarantee public freedoms and freedom of campaigning. Another round of dialogue will take place in March as preliminary to a new political stage consisting of parliamentary, presidential and National Council elections. However, will these talks have different results from earlier talks? Will they be a safe Palestinian exit from a block that has been hindering the political system for about 15 years?

The answer to this loaded question requires bringing forth a complex Palestinian reality that resulted from years of division. The division is between two different methods and has been reflected on the people and institutions – with international pressure and intervention as key factors. 

The Palestinian powers embraced the electoral decree, but the procedures are showing bigger challenges. Providing, first, a good atmosphere as the PA stops its arbitrary measures against the Gaza Strip would lead to a tougher challenge; receiving international recognition and allowing the government to practice its work.

As for the national issues, the dialogue in Cairo will address multiple important files such as security, monitoring the elections and enablement of the government.

At a procedural level, President Mahmoud Abbas has the authority to cancel the elections, especially after the amendments made to the judiciary. Overlooking such excessive jurisdictions given to Abbas, what about the winner in the elections?

A poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research carried out in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank in December showed that should there be parliamentary elections, Fatah would get 38% of votes while Hamas would get 34%. If Haniya runs for the elections, which is unlikely, he would win 50% of the votes while Abbas would win 43%.

Fatah, however, is suffering from another division. It will take part in the elections under 2 or 3 lists: President Abbas, Mohammed Dahlan and Marwan Al-Barghouthi. There are of course the personal ambitions of other PA officials such as Jebril Al-Rajoub. The elections, then, could lead to more division within the movement itself.

The role Egypt plays becomes clearer here. It neither wants to exclude Hamas entirely, nor does it want to see Hamas winning and taking leadership again. It will exercise pressure on Fatah’s groups to guarantee their participation under one list. This remains unlikely to happen.

Conclusion

          The most important item in the final declaration is the factions’ agreement on forming an elections court. No details were discussed, however. This, among other issues, further complicates the dialogue in March. The issues that need to be addressed in the dialogue affect the firm position of the occupation, the USA, the EU, and central Arab countries on Hamas’ rise to power. Therefore, it is unlikely for them to agree on all files. Also, it will be difficult for Egypt to unite Fatah movement.

          The dialogue in Cairo may be the excuse President Mahmoud Abbas is waiting for in order to cancel the elections under ‘Israeli’ pressure and American temptations. He would probably blame others for its failure, especially that the American-Palestinian relations are restored. President Joe Biden announced that the aids to the PA will resume next February. He promised to practice a fair and just policy towards the Palestinian cause. This means returning to Palestinian-‘Israeli’ negotiations. Benny Gantz said that the negotiations with the PA are one of the important tasks on the agenda of the coming ‘Israeli’ government. In order to embellish the work, the institutions of the PA will go under reformations.

Source : PALM Strategic Initiatives Centre