Election pledge from Abbas, will Palestine resist?

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told the UN General Assembly last week that he plans to set a date for the first general election in 13 years in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Jerusalem.

Observers believe that Abbas is serious this time in his intent to call the election, after the failure of repeated attempts to reconcile and heal the divisions among Palestinians.

He admittedly accepts the road will not be easy, however, with the possibility that Hamas will block any voting in Gaza, and Israel might do the same in Jerusalem but is determined to persevere.

Almost immediately Hamas announced its readiness to contest an election but added that it must be inclusive and take place as part of presidential, legislative and Palestine Liberation Organization National Council elections.

Ra’afat Morra, the head of Hamas’ foreign media department, said that the announcement by Abbas was “vague and unclear,” and added: “We cannot deal with elections and national issues in a piecemeal way. We need a comprehensive Palestinian vision that addresses the issues of Palestinians at home and abroad. This requires a comprehensive dialogue, leading to inclusive elections at all levels and a national consensus.”

Hamas, which controls Gaza, would not accept an election for only the Palestinian Legislative Council; any vote would have to include the Legislative Council, the presidency and the National Council.

Hamas won a majority in the last election for the Legislative Council, in early 2006. The constitutional term covered by that election ended on January 2010, while Abbas’ presidential term ended in 2009. In the absence of any subsequent elections, they remained in place.

Abbas did not specify whether his call includes a presidential election, but Al-Qawasmi said it would be limited to “legislative elections leading to the formation of a new government, which would restore the political system and fill the vacuum left by the absence of the Legislative Council.”