Fearing an election loss to rival Hamas, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas cancels the planned election that would have been the first in 15 years.
By Paul Shindman, World Israel News
Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas announced Thursday evening that he was postponing what would have been the the first Palestinian elections in 15 years, using a disagreement with Israel as an excuse as polls showed the Hamas terror group gaining strength.
“We decided to postpone the date of holding legislative elections until the participation of Jerusalem and its people is guaranteed,” Abbas announced on Palestinian TV.
Israel has said it would not allow Palestinian voting to take place in Jerusalem, aware that doing so would give tacit acknowledgment of Palestinian control over parts of its capital.
The general elections for the Palestinian legislature were due to take place May 22 with an election to replace Abbas as president scheduled for July 31. The aging Palestinian leader had announced the vote in January as President Joe Biden was being sworn into office.
With his Fatah party splitting into three different factions for the vote and polls showing a surge in support for rival Hamas, Palestinian officials earlier this month started demanding that Arab residents of Jerusalem must be allowed to vote or the election could not be held. Israel has previously barred Jerusalem residents from participating in the Palestinian elections, saying they are residents of Israel’s capital.
“Faced with this difficult situation, we decided to postpone the date of holding legislative elections until the participation of Jerusalem and its people in these elections is guaranteed,” Abbas said in a statement reported by AP. “There will be no concession on Jerusalem and no concession on our people in Jerusalem exercising their democratic rights.”
With possible success at the polls stymied, Hamas condemned Abbas for canceling the vote.
“This represents a coup against the path of partnership and national consensus,” Hamas said in a statement on its website. “Our popular and national consensus cannot be pawned as collateral for the agenda of a faction.”
Hamas said it was “holding Fatah and the Authority fully responsible for this decision and its repercussions.”
Abbas was elected in the last Palestinian leadership election in 2006, but Fatah lost the general election to Hamas. With Fatah refusing to hand over the government, Hamas staged a bloody military coup in Gaza and seized power there.
The Palestinians remained split between Hamas in Gaza and Abbas ruling in Ramallah.
It is not known yet if the cancellation of the elections will have any effect on the renewal of American aid to the Palestinian Authority. Earlier this month, U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said that the “U.S. and other key partners in the international community have long been clear about the importance of participants in that democratic process.”