Palestine's local elections: A one horse race?

Palestine's local elections: A one horse race?
As major opposition groups pull out of the elections called for by the Palestinian Authority, Fatah looks set to secure victory
4 min read
09 May, 2017
Elections will not take place in the majority of municipalities on election day [Getty Images]

Since 1948, Palestinians have not seen the light of freedom, democracy or self-determination. They have only lived the darkness of catastrophes, wars and conflicts.

In 1994, and with the formation of the Palestinian Authority, Palestinians began to hope once again for their own state where they can practice their democracy.

Democratic elections offered the dream of a stable life with stable services. Unfortunately, the dream did not last long; political divisions between Fatah and Hamas began, and exacerbated by humanitarian crises with a decade-long siege, the situation in the coastal enclave caused tensions to run high.

Local elections in Palestine have had an unbalanced history since they officially began in 2005. They were meant to be held in four stages, but were never finalised, neither in the Gaza Strip nor in the West Bank.

They were then rescheduled for 2010, but the Central Election Commission was unable to operate in the Gaza Strip due to the political rift. As a result, the Palestinian government in the West Bank announced that the elections would be postponed in the Strip.

On June 2010, the government again announced that all local elections were cancelled completely in both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Recently, the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority declared that Palestinian local elections would take place in both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip on May 13, 2017, but Hamas, the Gaza-de facto ruling party, rejected the plan completely and refused to participate, saying that elections should only be held after the political reconciliation is achieved.

Fawzi Barhoum, the Hamas spokesperson, said that there must not be any elections before achieving reconciliation.

"The election decision serves only Fatah, and it will never serve the Palestinian democracy."

Likewise, a number of Palestinian political factions have boycotted these elections, including Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).

MP Khalida Jarrar, a PFLP member, said that her party decided to boycott the elections to denounce the measures used by PA forces against family members and supporters of Basel al-Aaraj, a Palestinian activist killed by Israeli forces on March 6.

As a result, the PA decided to hold the local elections in the West Bank only.

Meanwhile, a recent poll showed a decline in the percentage of Palestinian youths who will participate in the elections. The poll, held by the Arab World for Research and Development (AWRAD), showed that 53% of the West Bank youth will participate in the upcoming elections, compared to 65% in the previous elections.

Nader Saed, AWRAD's chairman, said that the youths hesitation to participate in the local elections indicates the Palestinian's state of carelessness towards the elections.

Commenting on Palestinian parties boycotting the elections decision, Saed said that the absence of competition in the local elections will affect voters' participation.

The election decision serves only Fatah, and it will never serve the Palestinian democracy

Consequently, Mohammed Jabarin , PA Deputy Local Governance Minister, said that most municipalities in the West Bank either nominated a single list or no list at all, meaning that, "elections will not take place in the majority of our municipalities on election day."

The Fatah movement is expected to perform well in the elections due to the absence of other major parties like Hamas.

Despite Hamas' recent decision regarding participation in the elections, the PA gave Hamas a one-week chance to allow the Elections Agency to operate in the Gaza Strip.

Sama Zatary, a teacher living in Hebron, said that election “is a big lie the government uses.”

Like most Gazans, Sama hopes that Fatah and Hamas reconcile first, and "then we can talk about elections."

Ashraf Fathi, a Gazan university student, said that nothing will happen after the elections are held.

"Since 2007, our politicians and leaders have been speaking about elections and democracy, but I see nothing. We need actions not just ink on paper."

Apparently, the upcoming elections are politically important as it can be the first step towards the legislative and president elections. However, Palestinians believe that the reconciliation between both main parties is a priority now before any upcoming elections.

Mohammed Arafat holds a bachelor degree in Teaching English as a Foreign Language and is preparing for a Masters in Peace and Conflict Studies. Author of, Still Living There, a book documenting Gaza's last war and its aftermath.

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author, and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.