Abbas formed the committee in 2015 to study the issue and make recommendations.
Ramallah, April 20 – A committee appointed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for purposes of recommending a suitable date for the next parliamentary and presidential elections for the Palestinian National Authority has scheduled them for the next inshallah, a decision to which Abbas gave official approval this morning.
Palestinians have not voted in legislative elections since 2006, and in presidential elections since 2005. Abbas’s four-year term ended in 2009, and the lawmakers ostensibly holding office have long since seen their terms expire. Amid calls for more democratic processes under his rule, Abbas formed the committee in 2015 to study the issue and make recommendations.
Committee Chairman Nabil Sha’ath, an Abbas loyalist from the Fatah faction of the PLO, told reporters that the work took so long because of the complexity of the considerations involved. “There are untold numbers of problems with simply calling free and fair elections, as you well know,” Sha’ath explained in an interview. “Given the fragmentation of Palestinian society under occupation, elections might not result in a positive outcome – the wrong people might be elected, and the people cannot be trusted to choose the right people. That presents an intractable problem.”
Despite that obstacle, the committee managed to arrive at at optimal time for elections. Deliberations finally produced a workable timetable, under which the legislative elections would be held inshallah, with the legislative elections to occur two months later. Sha’ath disclosed that the selection of inshallah as the scheduled time stems from inshallah’s chief characteristic: it is like mañana, but without the urgency. He also noted that the first of Octember was a close second.
“Timing is really the most crucial thing here,” observed Ofer Meidad-Bahdi, an Israeli journalist who covers Palestinian political affairs. “The committee had to precisely calibrate when to schedule the elections. If they’re held too soon, Hamas takes the helm in a landslide, pushing Fatah out of power in the West Bank as well. If Abbas waits too long, his age or some other unpredictable factor forces him to step down or die in office, leaving a power vacuum and chaos, from which Hamas would likely emerge most powerful. So setting the elections for inshallah allows him to maintain a semblance of democracy, forestalling objections from opponents regarding his autocratic rule, while retaining the flexibility inherent in inshallah scheduling.”
Meidad-Bahdi stressed that elections held inshallah also carry risks for Fatah. “Hamas, and even other factions within the PLO, might argue that scheduling the elections is only a ruse,” he warned. “On the off chance that Hamas does not win those elections, you can bet they aren’t going to relinquish their power in Gaza, or keep trying to topple Abbas in Ramallah. But we’ll have to see how this all pans out, inshallah.”
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