Palestinian unity talks enter second day with focus on upcoming elections

Palestinian unity talks enter second day with focus on upcoming elections
The Palestinian factions have met to discuss points of division between the sides and plans for the upcoming elections.
3 min read
09 February, 2021
Hamas claimed a surprise victory at the last elections in 2006. [Getty]
Rival Palestinian factions have met for a second day of national dialogue sessions in Cairo, where politicians discussed issues affecting all sides and plans for the upcoming elections.

Attendees have described the first meeting, which started on Monday, as positive and has a good chance of success.

The meetings are being held, away from the media, at the headquarters of the Egyptian General Intelligence, with the first session chaired by the Director of the General Intelligence Abbas Kamel. 

Several issues are up for discussion, but most prominent among them is the holding of three-stage Palestinian elections for the Legislative Council, the presidency, and National Council. 

Hamas and Fatah, the two most prominent political factions, have been at loggerheads since 2006 when the Islamist movement secured a surprise victory in legislative elections.

Fatah refused to recognise the group's victory resulting in the split, as well as bloody clashes between supporters of the two parties. 

An unnamed source told Arabi 21, "the atmosphere that prevailed in today's meeting was good and positive, and the delegations were comfortable in presenting their different views".

During his opening remarks, Kamel stressed the importance of the talks and for the need of the factions to strengthen the Palestinian presence on the international stage. 

Early progress was made on the first day of the talks when it was announced that the Rafah land crossing, between Egypt and Gaza, would be reopened from today, and that no date for its closure has been set. 

Assurances were given that mechanisms at the crossing would be improved to aid and accelerate the movement of Palestinians.

The next phase of discussions will plan for elections, address political arrests, and tackle recent presidential decrees issued by Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas, according to The New Arab's Arabic service, Al-Araby Al-Jadeed.

Palestinians have claimed this restricts the judiciary and makes it a tool of the executive branch.

Sources told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that Hamas was seeking "national guarantees" that elections in the three arms of government would take place and will not be limited to the legislative branch. 

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President Abbas issued a decree on 15 January, stating that legislative elections would be held on 22 May, followed by presidential elections on 31 July. These will be the first elections in 15 years.

Ayed Yaghi, the head of the Palestinian National Initiative, told Voice of Jerusalem, "all Palestinians are working to create an internal climate to facilitate the upcoming electoral process".

"In the prevailing positive atmosphere, understandings can be reached that culminate in a code of honour between the factions in Cairo to respect the election results," he added. 

At a press conference following the first day of talks, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Maliki said, "The first session of the meetings of the factions in Cairo was successful, and we are optimistic about the outcome of the meeting".

He went on the praise Egypt's role in facilitating and overseeing the talks. 

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