2021 Palestinian Elections: A Quota for Youth and Women

Youth’s dream of participating in the Palestinian political system will be achieved only when a new amendment is introduced to the Election Law that guarantees a special quota for youth and women.

Written by: Dr. Dalal Iriqat

The first Palestinian presidential and legislative elections since the establishment of the Palestinian National Authority took place in 1996, according to the Palestinian Election Law No. (13) of 1995 and its amendments. This Law adopted the simple majority system (districts), where the voter chooses a number of candidates equal to or less than the number of seats allocated to the district. Based on this law, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip were divided into 16 electoral districts.  Also, this Law indicated that any candidate for the position of President must be 35-years-old or older, whereas any candidate for the membership of the Legislative Council must be 30-years-old or older. These elections were conducted under the supervision of the Central Elections Committee, which was formed by the presidential decree on the 21st of December, 1995.

There were two candidates who competed for the presidency of the Palestinian National Authority: Mr. Yasser Arafat and Ms. Samiha Khalil, where Mr. Arafat won the election with 88.2% of the votes and Ms. Samiha Khalil won 11.8% of the votes. As for the legislative elections, 88 members, including 5 women, of the first Legislative Council were elected, representing the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including Jerusalem, by factional representation as the following:

  1. Fatah Movement: 55 seats
  2. Independent Fatah: 7 seats
  3. Independent Islamists: 4 seats
  4. Independent Christians: 3 seats
  5. Independents: 15 seats
  6. Samaritans: 1 seat
  7. Others: 3 seats

Ms. Samiha’s participation came to prove to the world that Palestinian women are outperforming, where Palestine was one of the first countries in which a woman competed for the presidency. As for the victory of 5 women out of 88 in the legislative elections, this is a percentage that does not coincide with what Ms. Samiha Khalil has proven, as 25 women ran for office, and only 5 women won. This percentage called on decision-makers to reconsider the law and adopt the quota system, to ensure that women are represented at a rate that matches the competencies of Palestinian women.

For the 2006 elections, the Election Law was amended, where the number of seats increased from 88 to 132 and the age for a presidential candidate was raised to a minimum of 40-years-old, while the age to be a candidate for the membership of the Legislative Council was reduced to a minimum of 28-years-old.  This law also adopted a mixed system of voting, which combines both the simple majority system (districts) and the proportional representation system (lists).

This amendment is important, on the basis of the evidence that the countries which have many political parties, are considered to have a more democratic electoral system. The majority system facilitates the representation of one dominant ideology or one social group, which leads to the exclusion of other parties and factions in governmental institutions.

Further, in the 2006 elections, 17 of the 132 (13%) seats in the Palestinian Legislative Council became held by women, according to the electoral lists, that is, after the adoption of Article (4) of the Elections Law No. (9) of 2005, which stipulated that each electoral list nominated for the proportional elections (lists) shall include a minimum limit for the representation of women that is not less than one woman in:

  1. The first three names in the list;
  2. The next four names that follow;
  3. Each five names that follow.

None of the women who ran for the simple majority system (districts) managed to win the number of votes that could gain them a seat! President Mahmoud Abbas won the presidential elections in 2005.

In light of the outcome of the previous elections, the nature of the deteriorating political situation, the lack of options before the Palestinian leadership and whether or not the 2021 elections take place, it is agreed that the Palestinian political system must ensure higher participation of women and youth. Further, President Mahmoud Abbas confirmed that he seeks to hold Palestinian elections as soon as an agreement is reached with all factions, starting with parliamentary elections and followed by presidential elections. The Palestinian Prime Minister, Dr. Mohammad Shtayyeh, announced that 2020 will be the year of youth, where attention will be paid to their needs and aspirations, job opportunities will be created for them, and education outcomes will be reformulated to guarantee youth’s dignity and suitable work. Additionally, youth must participate in the political process, especially since youth between 18 to 29-years-old represent 24% of the population, while those under 29-years-old constitute 71% of the population in the West Bank, including occupied Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, in accordance to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics in 2017.

Youth’s dream of participating in the Palestinian political system will be achieved only when a new amendment is introduced to the Election Law that guarantees a special quota for youth by specifying age groups in forming lists that oblige candidates to include youth in their candidate lists. The amendment must also raise the quota for women’s participation to ensure that young men and women, who are twenty and thirty years of age, acquire seats in the Legislative Council and the Presidency in order to ensure a promising representation of youth groups in the next Legislative Council.

The opinions expressed in this article are the views of the author and not necessarily the opinion of the Association or donor.

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