Palestinians welcomed the call by President Mahmoud Abbas made at the UN General Assembly for general elections in Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.
Nabil Shaath, senior adviser to Abbas, told Arab News that the election idea had been presented to Hamas via the Egyptians repeatedly. According to Shaath, the Palestinian proposal will help resolve the current Palestinian division and stalemate: “The offer for elections is to produce a representative unity government regardless of who wins.”
Shaath said that the idea is for all to be represented in the first true unity government, which would help ease the current unification. “The idea combines democratic and pluralistic principles. It will not be winner takes all but a representative government based on election results. Once a unity government is established with all parties in it, we can move to the next step of a presidential elections,” he said.
Prime Minister Mohamad Shtayyeh, who is participating in the Ministerial Meeting of the International Donor Group for Palestine in New York, said that his government is ready to immediately begin all necessary steps to hold elections.
“After the announcement made by President Abbas, we are ready to proceed with the preparations for elections as has been detailed in the letter of appointment of our government,” said Shtayyeh in a statement by the Palestinian government.
Majed Aruri, executive director of the Commission for the Independence of the Judiciary and the Rule of Law, said that the offer made by Abbas in New York is serious. “Abbas made the announcement at the UN General Assembly so that the international community will support the elections and renew Palestinian democratic life.”
Aruri agreed with Shaath that the elections could be an instrument to end the division and allow a new leadership to emerge. “Elections will allow us to enter the difficult battle for liberation with a unified and legitimate leadership.”
Samir Abdallah, senior researcher at the Palestine Economic Policy Research Institute, told Arab News that the election offer is not new and it is challenged by the same problems it has always faced. “Successful elections require both Hamas and Israel to agree to them and this is not possible at the present time in my view.”
Nahed Abu Tuimeh, a lecturer in gender sensitivity at Birzeit University, said that Palestinians genuinely want to have elections but it is not clear yet if the circumstances are ripe. “It is true that the international community has failed, Europe is ineffective and Israel is in denial, but at the same time Palestinians badly need unity to move forward.”
Abu Tuimeh, who was born in Gaza but lives in Ramallah, doubts that Hamas is willing to agree to elections: “I don’t believe that Hamas will agree to lose what it has held on for some time through elections.”