Following a promise made to the U.N. General Assembly in September, an emissary of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas arrived in Gaza on Sunday to begin talks with Hamas on holding parliamentary elections, The Jerusalem Post reported.
The last time Abbas ran for office was in January 2005, when he was elected for a four-year-term. The last parliamentary election was held one year later and resulted in a Hamas victory. In 2007, Hamas forces ousted PA rivals and seized control of the Gaza Strip. Since then, a series of attempts at reconciliation of the two main Palestinian groups have failed.
The chairman of the Palestinian Central Elections Commission (CEC), Hanna Nasir, was set to meet with Hamas and other Palestinian factions. Nasir was accompanied by senior CEC officials, including Chief Electoral Officer Hisham Kuhail and his deputy, Ashraf Shuaibi. The officials entered the Gaza Strip through the Erez border crossing with Israel.
Hamas and other Palestinian factions have publicly welcomed Abbas’s pledge for elections. The two sides differ, however, on the procedure. PA officials want to first hold parliamentary elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC); elections for the PA presidency, they said, will be held at a later stage. The Gaza groups insist that parliamentary and presidential elections should be held simultaneously rather than separately.
Palestinian political analysts are said to be skeptical about whether the elections will actually take place.
“I don’t believe Hamas will allow elections to take place in the Gaza Strip before Abbas commits to implementing previous reconciliation agreements his Fatah faction signed with Hamas in the past few years,” a Ramallah-based analyst was quoted by the Post as saying. “I also don’t see Abbas agreeing to Hamas’s demand to hold presidential and parliamentary elections at once.”