More than 1 million Palestinians (aged 33 years old and younger, who are eligible to vote now) have never gone through the inundation of the election experience, except for local elections in some regions.
The young Palestinian generation is hopeless and fearful of their present and future. Amidst the decline of the status of the Palestinian issue in the global arena due to internal factors as well as regional and international circumstances resulting from the events of more than a decade, there is not a political, economic, or social horizon parallel to a political or regional division.
Most of the Palestinians, along with their authority and parties, agree that they are in a bottleneck. However, their leaders implicitly disagree on the nature of the best solution that gets them out of it. The authority and the parties don’t do anything practical about holding elections, even though it is the only solution for resolving crises, regardless of their various backgrounds and facts.
The talk of Palestinian politicians – with their various references – about elections has always appeared either to record stances between opponents or merely to maneuver internal and external affairs rather than out of a sincere will to renew the legitimacy of the official institution, in its executive and legislative aspects.
Fourteen years have passed since the last legislative elections, and sixteen years have passed since the last presidential elections. This indicates that more than 1 million Palestinians (aged 33 years old and younger, who are eligible to vote now) have never gone through the inundation of the election experience, except for local elections in some regions. Also, the number of those who are now eligible to run in any upcoming elections is huge in comparison to the last general elections.
The 1 million or more Palestinians who have not experienced general elections before allows us to think about the amount of frustration that the youth in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are feeling due to the fact that they are unable to make any change. Thus, this constitutes negative projections of citizenship as a concept and approach due to the absence of Palestinian elections, which is considered the pillar of “good” democratic governance and peaceful means through which citizens exercise his/her right to choose who governs and represents him/her.
When the meeting of the General-Secretaries of the Palestinian factions headed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas came simultaneously in Beirut and Ramallah on Thursday, 03.09.2020, the citizens’ most prominent questions were: “What will change? Will unity and elections be achieved this time? Is the final statement of the factions’ meeting, which stresses that elections must be held, – without setting their date – sufficient to indicate their seriousness in holding elections as the only option rather than accepting the status quo?!
Regardless of whether the factional meeting in itself was a step towards unity or just a maneuver by the Palestinian political spectrum, the factions’ meeting, along with the complex Palestinian situation, should constitute a rare opportunity to launch an intensely popular and civil campaign to demand the holding of elections immediately, under the premise that the era of justifications, obstacles and waiting has passed.
At the end of 2009, we witnessed political movements that appeared as if their goal was to acquit decision-makers and parties. President Mahmoud Abbas issued a decree to hold legislative and presidential elections in 2010, but these were postponed after the dialogues between Fatah and Hamas, at the time, failed to reach a crucial formula for the elections.
Then the National Accord Government was formed in 2014, headed by Rami Hamdallah, with the blessing of all parties, including Hamas, on the basis that its mission is to prepare for the elections. However, this government ended a year and a half ago and elections were not held.
Last year, President Mahmoud Abbas announced in a speech addressed before the United Nations that he would call for holding legislative elections to be followed by presidential elections. Hamas agreed to participate in the planned elections if legislative elections are held first, and then presidential elections are held 3 months later. It also accepts the system of proportional representation, which had always been a previous point of contention between Fatah and Hamas.
Despite this breakthrough, progress towards elections did not take place even one centimeter due to the Palestinian Authority’s requirement that Israel agrees to hold them in occupied Jerusalem as well as the West Bank and Gaza Strip – first – before the election decree was issued.
In fact, Jerusalem – in the view of election experts – is not a dilemma for holding elections. They say, “Let an election decree be issued, and then international pressure will be put on Israel to hold it within a specific proposal.” In addition, the one single electoral district system allows parties to nominate candidates from Jerusalem with advanced ranks in order to ensure an environment conducive to successful elections. This could be a proposal to make Jerusalem strongly present in the elections while being open to other proposals.
Although the Coronavirus pandemic paused discussions on elections, the recent meeting of the Palestinian factions aimed to create a unified national and political strategy in response to the growing processes of normalization between Arab countries and Israel. This must constitute an additional and decisive opportunity – no matter how small – to put great pressure on the Authority and the parties to organize elections, as it is the only means that will reduce the size of Palestinian harm and perhaps cure all dilemmas.
There is another controversy led by political forces that stress “the necessity of providing the appropriate atmosphere for elections first, before holding them.” However, election experts respond to this theory by indicating that “strictness in this proposition means that elections will not be held” They further stress that the appropriate atmosphere can be prepared in parallel with the preparation of elections and that the four months between the moment of issuing the election decree and the time of its implementation will be sufficient to prepare for it if there is seriousness.
Overall, the easiest way to understand the importance of elections is to look at the drawbacks that are becoming more complicated by not holding them. Asking for it is not a form of entertainment, but rather an urgent necessity to save what remains as a first step to prevent losses on various levels, if not compensated. Of course, elections are not a magical formula, but they are the shortest and most effective way to create an environment conducive to good governance and to save Palestinian youth from being lost by integrating them into decision-making processes and investing their energies, as necessary, in order to create a better tomorrow!
The opinions expressed in this article are the views of the author and not necessarily the opinion of the Association or donor.