Why the Palestinian general elections were postponed

The challenges that forced the PA and Fatah movement to postpone the general elections

The president’s stated justifications for postponing the elections:

The challenges that prompted the president and the Fatah movement to postpone the elections:

First challenge: Fragmentation and lack of discipline within the movement itself

Second challenge: The decline in President Mahmoud Abbas’ popularity

  • The political horizon of the peace process is closed: President Abbas has always been a proponent of a peaceful solution and negotiations and is not in favor of violent means of resistance. But with the dominance of the Israeli right headed by Benjamin Netanyahu since 2009, the peace process reached a dead end. With the continuation of the Israeli settlement expansion that disrupts the geographic contiguity of the promised Palestinian state and continuation to Judaize the city of Jerusalem, the Palestinians refused to return to negotiations unless settlement expansion stops, and thus the issue remained between ebb and flow throughout the first term of President Obama. Despite the efforts and success of US Secretary of State John Kerry in conducting negotiations between the two parties in 2013–14, these efforts met the same fate of failure. After that, the negotiations entered a state of clinical death. Nonetheless, President Abbas remained committed to the option of negotiations as the only option. Despite his advocacy of peaceful popular resistance, the Palestinian leadership did not succeed in promoting or supporting this option in a manner that would have made it an effective weapon.
  • Public dissatisfaction, especially in the Gaza Strip, with President Abbas’ policy towards the Strip: Recent years have witnessed a sharp decline in the President Abbas’ popularity in the Gaza Strip. Public opinion polls showed that the president’s popularity declined dramatically after the Israeli war on the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2014, when it dropped from 53% in June[6] 2014 before the war to 38% in September 2014[7] after the war. These findings reflected the decline of Abbas’ popularity and the rise of Hamas’ Ismail Haniyeh in hypothetical presidential elections, according to two opinion polls conducted by PSR during that period. Gazans felt that they were alone in their battle with the occupation, and that the PA leadership was contributing to the siege imposed by Israel and Egypt. The decline in President Abbas’ popularity in the Gaza Strip continued after a series of measures taken by the PA leadership that reduced the delivery of basic services, such as electricity and health services, followed by measures against a large number of public employees in the Gaza Strip, including early and compulsory retirement and a suspension of salaries. Gazans saw these measures as punitive, targeting citizens in the Gaza Strip, which suffers from the scourge of the continuous and tight blockade since 2006.[8]
  • The transformation of the Palestinian political system under his rule into an authoritarian regime that lacks accountability: The Hamas movement’s control of the Gaza Strip led to the split between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in June 2007, which in turn led to the absence of the PLC, and the transfer of all the legislative and oversight responsibilities to the executive authority, in particular to the head of the authority, Mahmoud Abbas. Within a few years, President Abbas issued about 300 laws by decrees, the vast majority of which are ordinary, not urgent or emergency laws. The number of these decrees far exceeds the number of laws that the PLC issued during its entire tenure (1996–2007). Without a parliament, there was no longer any accountability for the executive authority, with the exception of the little exercised occasionally by the judiciary, the press, and civil society. In recent years, there has also been a major seizure of power, represented by the dissolution of the PLC in December 2018 after more than 11 years of disruption. The judiciary was also weakened by the executive authority’s failure to implement the decisions issued by the courts, in addition to interfering in the affairs of the judiciary authority, which culminated in the Decree Law No. (40) of 2020 amending the Judicial Authority Law, which strengthened the executive authority’s dominance over the judiciary. This period also witnessed the targeting of civil society’s institutions through a set of measures against non-profit companies and civil organizations, leading to the enforcement of various new restrictions on these institutions, recently represented in Decree Law No. (7) of 2021 amending the Law of Charitable Societies and Civil Organizations.[9]

The damage caused by postponing the elections:

Recommendations:

  1. Conducting elections immediately, including Jerusalem, and challenging occupation measures
  1. Unity in the PLC
  1. Run in the presidential elections with a new candidate.

Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR)
email: pcpsr@pcpsr.org

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