News Analysis: Challenges shadow Palestinian election call despite hope

RAMALLAH, Jan. 17 (Xinhua) — After Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas set the dates for holding the general elections in the Palestinian territories, analysts say the election call offers hope to end the internal division, but internal and external challenges are still ahead.

On Friday, Abbas issued a presidential decree that called for holding the legislative elections on May 22 and the presidential elections on July 31.

Many Palestinians doubt that their first national elections in 15 years will achieve reconciliation between the two rival Palestinian groups, Abbas’s Fatah Movement and the Islamic Hamas movement.

The Palestinian legislative elections haven’t been held since 2006, while the last presidential elections were held in 2005.

Hani al-Masri, the Ramallah-based political analyst, told Xinhua that the American administration’s upcoming change, the Arab and international pressures, and Hamas’s flexibility might be the reasons that pushed Abbas to make his decision to set dates for holding the general elections.

“What I fear is not the external factor. I fear that these elections will constitute an entry point to reproduce the existing situation of internal division between Fatah and Hamas without a real change and restitution,” al-Masri said.

He added that holding the Palestinian elections “would face internal challenges, such as the internal division and providing a free and fair environment without fraud.”

“The external challenges are related to the financial interventions, and whether the Palestinians, Israel, and the United States will respect the election results,” al-Masri said.

He also said that setting dates for holding the elections before launching a national dialogue between the political factions “is like going upside down,” adding that “this dialogue should agree on making the elections successful, instead of discussing substantial issues that harvest big failure.”

Al-Masri proposed that the factional dialogue “should prepare for a proper environment for holding the elections and agree upon a transitional government that prepares for free and transparent elections that everyone respects its results.”

Mustafa Ibrahim, a Gaza-based political analyst, told Xinhua that it is essential to hold the elections to renew the Palestinian political system, “but no one can predict what would happen during the upcoming stage.”

Ibrahim expressed hope that the general elections will lead to an end of the internal Palestinian division that has continued since 2007, when Hamas took over the Gaza Strip.

Rajab Abu Serreyah, a Ramallah-based political analyst, told Xinhua that “if nothing happens and there will be no obstacles or challenges, the elections would strengthen the position of the Palestinian Authority as a legitimate and elected body to open a political horizon for the next stage.”

He added that the Palestinian Authority would emerge after the elections, reinforced by Fatah and Hamas’s partnership.

“It will be stronger than today, which means that any agreement with the next Palestinian Authority will be guaranteed implementation,” Abu Serreyah said. Enditem