SPONSORED:

Palestinian Authority to hold first elections in 15 years

Palestinian Authority to hold first elections in 15 years
© Getty Images

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Friday announced that parliamentary and presidential elections will take place in the country for the first time in 15 years.

Abbas said in a decree that the parliamentary elections will take place on May 22, and the presidential race will be held on July 31 in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. 

They will be the first votes of their kind since 2006, when the militant group Hamas won in a resounding victory and set off a clash with Abbas’s Fatah Party, thrusting the Palestinian Authority (PA) into a political crisis. Hamas later took control of the Gaza Strip in a bloody fight.

ADVERTISEMENT

Abbas first won the presidency in a 2005 election to determine the successor to the late Yasser Arafat.

While Fatah and Hamas have vowed to hold elections for over a decade, they have been unable to repair their bitter divide, and it is still far from certain that votes will actually be cast later this year. Hamas last week informed Abbas that it would agree to participate in elections in a reconciliation effort. 

Hamas in a statement Friday expressed its “strong eagerness to make this obligation successful,” according to The Associated Press

“We have worked in the past months to surmount all hurdles to reach this day, and we have shown a lot of flexibility,” it said in a statement. It also called for dialogue ahead of the vote. 

The elections could present massive dangers for both parties given rising dissatisfaction over a worsening coronavirus pandemic, lack of progress on a push for statehood, poverty and more. 

However, it appears that Abbas may be in particularly steep political peril; the 85-year-old leader has been beset by health issues and is especially unpopular, and it is possible he could lose to a Hamas candidate. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Abbas’s PA has been sidelined during the Trump administration, which took a slew of actions championed by Israel, including moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and shuttering the PA’s diplomatic mission in Washington. Still, should the elections go through, it could have massive implications for both Israel and the U.S.

If Abbas loses to a Hamas candidate, it would raise significant issues over the governance of the West Bank. It would be virtually impossible for a candidate from the militant group, which is recognized as a terrorist group by Israel and many western nations, to assume control of the West Bank, over which Jerusalem maintains overall security control.

Abbas’s government in the West Bank coordinates with Israel over security issues, but Hamas has fought three wars with the Israeli military since it took over the Gaza Strip.

A Hamas victory could also throw a major monkey wrench in President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenMellman: Trump voters cling to 2020 tale FDA authorizes another batch of J&J vaccine Cotton warns of China collecting athletes' DNA at 2022 Olympics MORE’s plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and restore aide to the Palestinians, given that Washington views Hamas as a terrorist group.

It is still uncertain that votes will actually be cast later this year, though, given the inability to hold elections in past years. It is also possible that Israel blocks voting in East Jerusalem, which could also throw the elections into jeopardy.