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PA: Elections canceled for sake of Gaza

June 10, 2010 5:32 P.M. (Updated: June 12, 2010 9:09 A.M.)
Ramallah – Ma'an – The Palestinian Authority postponed indefinitely the municipal elections scheduled for 17 July, a Thursday cabinet decision declared.

No explanation initially accompanied the cabinet decision, which was made behind closed doors following calls from some Fatah members that the local elections be held off in the interest of legitimacy.

The move came on the set deadline for the submission of electoral lists to the Palestinian Central Elections Commission.

Hours after the news, the Ministry of Local Government issued an explanation, saying the decision to postpone came in response to the demands of some Arab nations and a number of "friends in the world."

The calls from abroad advised the government to postpone "in order to pave the way for a successful end to the siege on Gaza and for continued efforts at unity," the statement explained.

According to the communique, the cabinet decision that postponed the vote, also canceled "the processes and decisions" that paved the way for the elections, inducing the dissolution of local councils, which will remain in office.

The Ministry of Local Government said it "appreciated the work of the central election commission and the Palestinian factions in preparing for the elections," but confirmed that they had been canceled.

Supporters

One supporter of the move was Fatah leader and former member of the Legislative Council Hussam Khader, who called for the postponement of municipal elections across the occupied West Bank.

"The national interest requires preserving what remains of the Fatah movement, because even if Fatah wins the elections, it will lose the most in the long term," said by way of an explanation for his call.

Detractors

Mustafa Barghouti, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council and head of the Palestinian National Initiative party, called the decision "unacceptable and harmful to the democratic process."

Official with the Palestine People's Party Bassam As-Salhi, speaking only hours before the cabinet decision was announced, said "local elections should not be made into a political issue," saying that rather, they should be held in the context of local development. "

The non-governmental Civilian Election Monitoring Committee joined the growing chorus of condemnations, calling the postponement of elections "illegal and non-democratic."

In a statement, the committee expressed "deep concerns" over the cabinet decision, reminding officials that elections postponements must by approved by the Central Elections Commission, and added that they cannot be postponed by more than four weeks, a proviso initially intended for use in avoiding technical issues.

Only after a request to the elections committee, the group said, could the cabinet vote to postpone a vote scheduled by presidential decree.

The committee called on Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and his cabinet to adhere to the law, and retract their decision to postpone, calling the move a "clear violation of Elections Law number 10/2005, article 5."

Warning that the move could spark a "new cycle of political polarization and social division," the group said the government must stand firm on its announced date for a vote.

Calling on all factions and civil society groups to rally against the decision, the monitoring committee said Palestinian society must put pressure on the cabinet and demand an adherence to the law.

The Elections Monitoring Committee is made up of a network of local and international NGOs, including the Arab World Democracy and Electoral Monitor (Al-Marsad), the Panorama Centre, Shams Centre, Al-Maqdesi Institute, Sharek Centre, Agricultural Relief Committee, and Palestinian Centre for Peace and Democracy.

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