The Palestinian Authority (PA) has set October 8 for forthcoming municipal elections to be held in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip, but these may not go ahead due to unsettling developments on the ground.
“The PA says it wants the elections to go ahead and that is the official word from President Mahmoud Abbas’ presidential compound in Ramallah,” said Professor Samir Awad, a political analyst from Birzeit University, near Ramallah, in the West Bank.
“But that could well be lip service. It could follow that the PA doesn’t want the elections going ahead knowing that its erstwhile political foe Hamas is gaining strength rapidly in the West Bank following recent events,” Awad told the African News Agency (ANA) during an interview from Ramallah on Monday morning.
Several weeks ago a leading member of the Al Aqsa Martyr’s Brigades, an armed group pledging allegiance to the PA-affiliated Fatah organisation, to which Abbas belongs, was beaten to death by PA security members after he had been arrested and held in detention in the city of Nablus, in the northern West Bank.
Ahmad Izz Halaweh was accused of being behind a shootout between armed Fatah gunmen and Palestinian security forces, which left two policemen and two gunmen dead.
Halaweh’s funeral was held on Sunday with thousands of angry Palestinians attending, according to the Palestinian news agency Maan.
“Four days of protests, including strikes and clashes between Palestinian youths and Palestinian security forces, followed his death,” Awad told ANA.
“Palestinians are furious with the PA for a variety of reasons, and there is no doubt that many Fatah members will defect to Hamas, not on the same scale as during the 2006 elections, but a significant number, thereby further weakening both Fatah and the PA,” added Awad.
In 2006 Hamas caught political analysts and commentators by surprise, not least of all Hamas and Fatah themselves, when the Islamists won a landslide victory against Fatah after the latter was accused of nepotism and corruption.
Palestinian local elections are supposed to be held every four years, according to the Palestinian Electoral Commission (PEC).
However, they’ve only been held once in all the Palestinian territories in the last 10 years and that was the elections held at the end of 2004, beginning of 2005, which included 262 local bodies.
Hamas boycotted the 2012 elections, claiming the movement’s members were being pursued by the Palestinian security services in the West Bank.
Since then, the situation, from the PA’s perspective, has only deteriorated with the governing body accused by many Palestinians of being Israel’s subcontractor in regards to the Israeli occupation.
The PA has carried out sweeping arrest campaigns of political opponents in the West Bank, often coinciding with simultaneous Israeli arrest campaigns, and has been involved in numerous gunfights with opposition gunmen.
While the PA has written off armed Fatah members as thugs, according to a number of opposition gunmen ANA spoke to, they are political opponents who’ve been sidelined both politically and in employment opportunities within the PA.
Now as election date approaches, the multiple lists currently being created by Fatah candidates, as they jockey for political prestige and positions in the PA, is further weakening the PA, said Awad.
“The power struggles and disagreement among Fatah candidates is further crippling the organisation. Additionally, when Abbas said he wanted Fatah candidates to follow the organisation’s central division, what he really meant is he doesn’t want political rivals,” Awad told ANA.
The sum total of political intolerance, security force brutality, corruption and nepotism within the PA will no doubt see Hamas gain significantly in the West Bank should the elections go ahead, explained Awad.
However, the big question is if they will indeed take place.
“The PA has been losing support and popularity amongst Palestinians for years. If the municipal elections are held, Abbas and the Western-backed PA could face a political nadir,” said Awad.
Hence, it is quite logical that both the Israelis and the PA would be glad if the elections don’t go ahead.
“The only thing keeping the PA going is the life support it receives from both the international community and the Israelis,” Awad told ANA.
– African News Agency (ANA)