By: Prof. Dr. Mohsen Mohammad Saleh.
On 15/12/2021, President Mahmud ‘Abbas issued a decree ordering Palestinian general elections to be carried out in three stages, where the legislative elections take place on 22/5/2021, followed by the presidential elections on 31/7/2021, and the results of the former would be considered the first stage of the formation of the Palestinian National Council (PNC), which represents the Palestinian people at home and abroad. The PNC represents also the legislative authority of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), and according to the same decree, PNC elections take place on 31/8/2021, in accordance with the PLO’s statute and the national understandings, where the elections would be held abroad wherever possible.
Hamas welcomed the decree and called for free and transparent elections, rebuilding the Palestinian political system, the agreement on a comprehensive national strategy to confront the Israeli occupation and on the necessity to proceed with the electoral process until its end.
Regardless of the position of the author of these lines, regarding the provision of the objective conditions for the success of the elections and the renewal of the “legitimacies,” the seriousness of the Fatah leadership (the leadership of the PLO and the Palestinian Authority (PA)) in bringing about real reform in official Palestinian institutions; and whether what is happening may turn into a “trap” for the resistance forces; steps are being taken to hold at least the legislative elections. Therefore, since they have decided to participate, one must advise the resistance forces to get the best results with the least possible losses.
The resistance forces have agreed to take some risks in order to push for what they consider a national unity and the reform of the Palestinian political house. For ‘Abbas and the leaderships of the PA and Fatah have “designed” the conditions in accordance with their requirements and standards and insisted on dragging everybody into their position. The elections are taking place without an agreement on a Palestinian national program, at a time the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) is dissolved, and the PA has returned to its commitments whether towards the Oslo Accords or Israel, including security coordination. They are taking place without synchronization between them and under a fully proportional electoral system. At the same time, the decrees that ‘Abbas issued have weakened the judiciary and made the executive power encroach on its turf… and led to the emergence of dozens of legal and procedural issues that still need to be solved.
Accordingly, the resistance forces must exert their utmost efforts during the Cairo meeting on 5/2/2021, to achieve the best possible atmosphere, steer the talks towards the higher interests of the Palestinian people and their issue, and fill the potential gaps.
Concerning the vision governing the action, it is necessary to emphasize the Palestinian fundamentals, bypass the Oslo Accords phase and establish for the next phase, and agree on a national program that would employ the capabilities of the Palestinian factions and the Palestinian people to end the occupation rather than perpetuating it and coexisting with it.
As for the procedural framework concerning guarantees and arrangements, there are several points that should be noted:
First: Guaranteeing freedoms, stopping security prosecutions and political arrests in the PA territories, and fostering an environment conducive to the conduct of election advertisements and campaigns.
Second: Reversing the presidential decrees and decisions that confuse the legislative and executive institutional action, tread on the judiciary’s turf and conflict with the Palestinian Basic Law.
Third: Forming a transitional government which would oversee the electoral process in the PA areas, because the current government is practically a Fatah government.
Fourth: Activating the role of the Interim Leadership Framework (which brings together the leaders of the Palestinian factions) in implementing the reconciliation program, including overlooking the electoral process, especially the PNC elections.
Fifth: Lifting the sanctions on Gaza Strip (GS) and having a full and effective judicial and executive partnership in the electoral process, rather than only solving the problems of the Fatah members in GS, which would entrench fears and would be considered only in favor of Fatah election campaign.
Sixth: Providing real guarantees that the electoral process would proceed until its end (Legislative, presidential, PNC); and ensuring its integrity and transparency, while respecting its results, whatever they are.
Seventh: Ensuring that Jerusalem would have free and effective participation in the elections.
Eighth: Ensuring that the Palestinians abroad would truly and effectively elect their representatives, and that they would not be overridden by superior decisions.
Ninth: Taking the necessary measures to ensure the widest participation of Palestinians abroad, such as registering voter lists, negotiating with the concerned countries (especially Arab countries) to facilitate the procedures, and activating the unions, syndicates and communities abroad.
Tenth: Not to submit to Israeli blackmail and measures, or bow to external (International or Arab) pressures that would impose a certain course for the elections and their results.
Finally, elections are mere means or tools, while the essence is in the vision, the program, and the action on the ground. Our main bet must remain on the resistance project, liberating all of Palestine, and on building institutions and establishing legitimacies accordingly.