The Palestinians are set to hold their first presidential and parliamentary elections for 15 years as 85 year old Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas issued instructions to prepare.
He was last elected in 2005, when he was given a four-year mandate, but in 2007 the Islamists of Hamas took power from Abbas’s secular Fatah in the Gaza Strip. A string of failed Palestinian reconciliation attempts has marked their relations in subsequent years.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh told Abbas that Hamas would take part, for the sake of reconciliation. A Hamas statement said: “It is necessary to expedite the holding of a comprehensive national dialogue in which all Palestinian factions participate without exception.”
The United Nations and the European Union welcomed the news, the EU saying it would “engage with relevant actors to support the electoral process”. The bloc also called on Israel “to facilitate” the elections “across all the Palestinian territory”.
It remains to be seen whether Israeli authorities will let Palestinians in East Jerusalem participate in any Palestinian election. Israeli analysts are sceptical about the prospects of full elections.
Abbas’ popularity among Palestinians has long been low and most think Haniyeh would win a two-way presidential race. Marwan Barghouti, a Fatah figure who led the Second Intifada, remains popular on the streets, but he is serving several life sentences in Israel.
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