By announcing last week that the Palestinian Authority elections would take place “the moment national reconciliation is achieved,” PA Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh was putting the final nail in the coffin of the already non-existent Palestinian democracy.
Since the Fatah and Hamas civil war in 2007, the sides have attempted to reconcile and have even signed several agreements, but to no avail. The power struggle is fundamental, and reconciliation – if at all realistic – is something for the distant future. Therefore, postponing elections until after reconciliation is an indefinite postponement that perpetuates the current dictatorial rule.
While the international community has poured in tens of millions of dollars and euros specifically for the purpose of creating and sustaining a democratic Palestinian Authority, the end results are abysmal.
In the 25 years since the creation of the PA only two elections have been held for the position of PA Chairman. Yasser Arafat held the position for 10 years until his death in 2004. The current PA chairman, Mahmoud Abbas, just entered his fifteenth year as leader, although PA law limits a term to four years.
In the 25 years since the PA was created, only two general elections have been held .The two elections took place ten years apart, the first one in 1996 and the other in 2006. While Fatah, the party of Arafat and Abbas, won the majority of seats in the PA Parliament [Legislative Council] in the first election, in the second election Hamas – recognized internationally as a terrorist organization – won the majority of the seats in both the West Bank and Gaza. However, in the beginning of 2007, Abbas, unhappy with Hamas rule, appointed an alternative government. In June 2007, following a brief civil war, Hamas seized complete control of the Gaza Strip. Since then, for 12 years, the Fatah-controlled PA and Hamas have been trying to reach reconciliation.
In December 2018, Abbas decided to dissolve the PA parliament, which officially still had a Hamas majority, relying on a decision of the Palestinian Constitutional Court, created by Abbas himself. The court also added a call to hold general elections “within six months.”
It would appear that Abbas accepted the part of the judicial decision that was convenient for him, and ignored that which was less convenient – the holding of elections.
Soon after the decision of the court, Abbas disbanded the technocrat “reconciliation” government and appointed Shtayyeh to be the new Prime Minister, thus strengthening Fatah’s control of the PA.
With this latest announcement that the elections will be held “the moment national reconciliation is achieved,” Abbas and Shtayyeh are really saying that they have no intention to hold general elections and will continue the dictatorship rule indefinitely.
The “European Joint Strategy in support of Palestine 2017 – 2020” states that one of the major foundation stones on which the strategy is based is the “EU’s non-negotiable principles” such as “democratic principles” and the “holding of elections.”
Given the absence of any semblance of PA democracy, the question begs, where have the tens of millions of dollars and euros of donor aid to the PA to create and strengthen the PA democracy gone? Is the EU reconsidering its aid to the PA, or at least conditioning it on seeing real steps to achieve the EU’s “non-negotiable” “democratic principles”? Or is the EU going to abandon these “non-negotiable principles” to continue its support for the Abbas/Shtayyeh/Fatah dictatorship?
- Itamar Marcus is Founder and Director of Palestinian Media Watch and Maurice Hirsch, Adv. is the Head of Legal Strategies for Palestinian Media Watch