The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) welcomes the decision taken by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to postpone the elections of local councils which were scheduled to be organized on 22 October 2011. PCHR renews its position that elections, whether elections of local councils or general elections, cannot be organized before achieving the national reconciliation and ensuring appropriate conditions for the organization of fair and transparent elections that reflect the wills of voters.
On 22 August 2011, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas issued a Presidential Decree on postponing the organization of elections of local councils.
The Decree stipulates: ‘The organization of elections of local council which are scheduled to be organized on 22 October 2011 shall be postponed till appropriate conditions are available to organize these elections in all governorates of the country…’
In the preamble of this Decree, it was noted that this decision was taken in view of postponing the formation of the government in order to contribute to putting an end to the ongoing Palestinian fragmentation, achieving national reconciliation, supporting national and Arab efforts exerted to end the fragmentation and achieve national reconciliation, as well as providing an appropriate atmosphere for achieving these objectives.
Local and general elections have been postponed several times since 2009. On 23 October 2009, the Palestinian President issued a Presidential Decree calling for the organization of free and direct presidential and legislative elections in the Palestinian Authority controlled areas on 24 January 2010.
However, two days before the scheduled organization of these elections, the President issued another Presidential Decree ordering postponement of elections until appropriate conditions are available. The President did not determine any dates in that Decree.
On 08 February 2010, the Council of Ministers in Ramallah issued a decision to organize local elections in all the local councils in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip on 17 July 2010. In its session on 17 July 2010, the Council of Ministers annulled the previous decision. The Council of Ministers agreed to determine a date for the organization of the elections later.
On 08 February 2011, the Council of Ministers in Ramallah decided to organize the elections of the local councils on 09 July 2011. In its session dated 17 May 2011, the Council of Ministers postponed the date of elections to 22 October 2011. The Council confirmed this date in another decision dated 27 July 2011.
It should be noted that the terms of local councils elected in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip have already ended since December 2009. Since the beginning of the ongoing fragmentation, the two Palestinian governments in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip have appointed new local councils, including members of former councils who are close to them.
Over the three past years, PCHR has expressed reservations and opposition to the organization of both general and local elections under the ongoing fragmentation, due to the unavailability of suitable conditions for the organization of fair and transparent elections that reflect the will of voters.
PCHR has called for the achievement of reconciliation as a prerequisite for the organization of the elections. PCHR’s position is totally in line with the President’s recent decision.
When the reconciliation agreement was signed between Fatah and Hamas movements in Cairo on 04 May 2011, there were hopes to end the Palestinian fragmentation that has continued since 2007, achieve the reconciliation, form a national unity government and reach an agreement to organize local and general elections in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
However, outstanding issues, including the formation of a national unity government, have not been settled, and therefore, no agreement has been reached to organize local and general elections in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
In light of the above, PCHR welcomes the President’s decision to postpone the local elections in the West Bank until the availability of appropriate conditions to organize local elections in all Palestinian governorates.
This is totally in line with PCHR’s vision and tendency to link the organization of local and general elections with the availability of appropriate atmosphere.