GAZA CITY: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has introduced that the primary presidential and parliamentary elections since 2006 can be held later this yr. However the highway to the vote — the important thing to advancing Palestinian statehood and mending a rift between Abbas’ Fatah celebration and the fighter group Hamas — is suffering from obstacles.

Parliamentary elections are to be held on Might 22, adopted by a presidential vote on July 31. The rival factions will meet in Egypt later this month, hoping to work out logistics and settle their variations earlier than election campaigns kick-off.

With the growing old Abbas on the helm within the West Financial institution and Hamas’ rule entrenched within the Gaza Strip, there are a lot of excellent questions. Right here’s a have a look at the problems surrounding a Palestinian election:

WHY NOW?

The Palestinians endured 4 powerful years beneath President Donald Trump, who largely sided with Israel, prompting the Palestinians to chop off ties with the administration. Trump additionally brokered offers to ascertain ties between Israel and 4 Arab nations, shattering a longstanding wall of Arab opposition to normalisation with Israel till it made main concessions to the Palestinians. The Trump administration lower funding to the Palestinians, additional weakening their place.

Whereas President-elect Joe Biden is prone to take a extra balanced method, he’s anticipated to direct his consideration first to extra pressing overseas coverage points, such because the Iran nuclear deal. Abbas apparently hopes to start out the connection with the Biden administration on good phrases by assembly the West’s long-standing demand that he maintain overdue elections. Abbas may additionally have felt stress from the European Union, one of the crucial essential backers of his self-rule authorities, the Palestinian Authority. Comparable stress seems to have been exerted by Turkey and Qatar on Hamas.

CHALLENGES AHEAD:

Hamas and Fatah have spent years attempting to reconcile after a break up greater than a decade in the past. Hamas, thought-about a terrorist organisation by Israel and Western nations, gained the final parliamentary elections in 2006, however the worldwide group largely refused to take care of any authorities that included Hamas figures.

After fierce road battles, Hamas routed Fatah forces and seized energy in Gaza in 2007. It retained management of the territory regardless of an Israeli-Egyptian blockade. Quite a few makes an attempt to deliver the factions collectively have failed, with phrases for holding elections a significant sticking level. Each side have been unwilling to cede energy and compromise — and it’s not clear whether or not attitudes have modified. In Gaza, Hamas has created its personal authorities forms, together with an armed wing and a stockpile of rockets aimed toward Israel. Abbas, who oversees autonomous zones within the West Financial institution, opposes violence as a method of ending greater than half a century of the Israeli occupation.

An extra roadblock is uncertainty about holding the vote in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem, sought by Palestinians as a future capital. Israel captured east Jerusalem, residence to about 300,000 Palestinians, within the 1967 Mideast warfare, together with Gaza and the West Financial institution. Israel considers all of Jerusalem as its capital. Whereas Israel permitted voting there beneath a much less hard-line authorities in 2006, it may now view a vote as undermining its management and block it. Palestinian Central Election Fee chief Hanna Nasser mentioned Saturday that officers have requested Israel about permitting voting in east Jerusalem. Abbas has mentioned it’s important for such voting to happen.

QUESTIONS REMAIN:

Abbas, 85, has led the Palestinian Authority and the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) for the reason that demise of Yasser Arafat in 2004. Whereas he has repeatedly mentioned he wouldn’t search one other time period as president, he has not groomed a successor. It’s potential that he’ll run once more. A number of senior Fatah members of their ’60s and ’70s contemplate themselves as potential candidates, however no clear favourite has emerged. Marwan Barghouti, a frontrunner of the second Palestinian rebellion in opposition to Israeli occupation, has finished effectively in opinion polls however is serving a number of life phrases in an Israeli jail, complicating any candidacy.

A challenger from Hamas can be up within the air. Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh, who led the group’s electoral listing within the 2006 vote, left Gaza in 2019 for what was billed a regional tour, by no means to return.

Haniyeh, who now leads the motion’s decision-making physique, was for years the group’s self-styled prime minister, working Gaza throughout the blockade and three wars with Israel. As a candidate and later head of the territory’s authorities, Haniyeh portrayed himself as a median individual nonetheless residing within the crowded al-Shati refugee camp on the sting of Gaza Metropolis, however that picture didn’t final lengthy. Individuals in Gaza, many poor and jobless due to the blockade that was imposed in response to Hamas’ insurance policies, whispered about Haniyeh’s rumored wealth. Since he left Gaza, pictures of his typically luxurious stays in resort suites in Qatar have leaked on-line, a jarring distinction to the grim actuality of Gaza’s 2 million folks.