Now that we are done with the Israeli election, at least for now, let us turn our attention to the Palestinian parliamentary and presidential elections, scheduled for May 22 and July 31 respectively.
The question I immediately asked, when I heard they were taking place was why now? Why is 85-year-old Mahmoud Abbas, who is in his sixteenth year of a four year term, announcing elections now?
Palestinian Fatah is no longer a single political movement. It is heavily divided into many different factions with much discontent and dissatisfaction with Abbas’s leadership and what he represents.
In fact several Palestinian Fatah groups are just looking to move the aging Abbas out of the way, so they can make plans for “Palestinian life after the Abbas era.”
But Abbas knows if Fatah win, nothing changes on the ground. Hamas in the Gaza strip are not going to change their ideology, or its objective of the elimination of Israel. They certainly will not hand over power to Fatah in Gaza nor give up their huge arsenal of weapons.
But if Hamas win, they will attempt to take over parts of the Palestinian Authority areas in the West Bank. This will be a huge embarrassment to the Biden administration in the US and the European Union, who have mistakenly put their Foreign Policy commitment and faith in the Palestinian Authority.
Mohammed Dajani Daoudi, a former Weston Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and Director of the Wasatia Academic Institute in Jerusalem, believes Hamas have an excellent chance of winning both the parliamentary and presidential elections.
In an interview, the Palestinian Professor said, “Hamas will win because they are united as one force, running on one list, with good organisational skills and funding from abroad.”
The problem for Fatah is that jailed leader Marwan Barghouti has decided to run in the election on a separate list from Abbas. It’s a move that is seen as a major challenge to the Palestinian leader and the Fatah leadership. To make matters worse, prominent Fatah member, Nasser Akidwa of the National Democratic Assembly, agreed to join forces with Barghouti.
In addition, exiled Palestinian politician, Mohammed Dahlan of the Democratic Reform List, also confirmed he will run on his own list and further split the Fatah vote.
Dahlan was a former Fatah chief and ex-PA security minister, before he was expelled from the West Bank in 2011, following a bitter political dispute with the Ramallah government over corruption.
Professor Daoudi said that 28 parties have so far submitted their party for registration, although Palestinian reports said it was 36.
So far, 14 have been approved and each of these lists are promising a better future for the Palestinian people with them in charge. Sound familiar?
Many are independent parties, other than Hamas and the “official” Fatah, so the vote will clearly be divided.
But Daoudi says, few details about their policies are known. “What are they proposing to get us out of the Covid 19 pandemic? “What about jobs for Palestinians, investment, talks with Israel? “We don’t know what they plan to do”.
Daoudi continued, “They could claim that because they are campaigning under occupation, they cannot really address these subjects.
“But they are not even saying how they will end the occupation. “How will the elections effect future negotiations with Israel? “None of this is being disclosed, none of them have a peace plan, none will address how they will improve the status of the people”, Daoudi said.
On the other hand, “Hamas is unified” he told me and will win the parliamentary election.
As for the Presidential election, “Abbas is not popular and will be a loser if the election takes place. Mohammed Dajani Daoudi continued, “The majority of the people want change and that includes those in the President’s office.
Marwan Barghouti is probably Abbas’s main challenger and being in jail could play very well for him, as he enjoys a great deal of popularity. Daoudi says, “It signifies the Palestinian people are in a prison and they will look to him as a symbol for freedom”.
Mahmoud Abbas does have support, because many Palestinians are financially supported by him. But Barghouti who is serving four life sentences for murder, will take votes from Abbas. However, if Barghouti wins, Israel is unlikely to release him from his Israeli jail cell.
The last parliamentary and presidential elections in 2005 and 2006 were a real disaster for the Palestinians, because the result brought about a split, with a great deal of violence, and to some degree, created two states – Gaza and the PA autonomous areas.
It is true the Americans would love to know how much support Mahmoud Abbas really does have on the Palestinian streets, in order to know how much investment to make in the Palestinian Authority. But the Americans and EU are busy dealing with the Covid crisis at this time.
Maybe Abbas wanted to show to the world, “We are a democracy”, but they are not.
Still the Palestinian people are calling for change and there has been a lot of pressure on Abbas to hold elections. But he could have refused, like he has been doing for the last 12 years.
Israel bans any PA activity in Jerusalem, but it has in the past, allowed east Jerusalem Arabs to vote in PA elections. However this is likely to be the “silver bullet”, Abbas is looking for to delay or cancel both the parliamentary and presidential elections. And of course he will blame Israel at the same time.
Fatah will claim they don’t have full campaign rights in Jerusalem, when really they know they are going to lose. That’s how these elections are not going to take place. But we will soon see how it plays out.