RAMALLAH, Saturday, January 16, 2021 (WAFA) – An estimated two million Palestinians in Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza Strip are eligible to vote in the upcoming national elections planned for later this year, today said Hanna Nasser, chairman of the Palestinian Central Elections Commission (CEC).
Speaking at a press conference in Ramallah a day after President Mahmoud Abbas issued decrees to hold legislative elections on May 22 and presidential elections on July 31, as well as elections for the Palestinian National Council, the parliament in exile, on August 31, Nasser said that Palestinians over 18 years of age in East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip should be able to vote freely or become candidates.
He, however, expressed hope that Israel would not obstruct the participation of the Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem, who voted in the previous two elections in 1996 and 2006, in the upcoming elections.
Israel recently imposed heavy restrictions on any activity for the Palestinian Authority in East Jerusalem despite agreements that allow it some presence in the city and detained or restricted movement of Palestinian officials in the occupied city.
"We do not have guarantees regarding Jerusalem but we have precedents," said Nasser, expressing the belief that elections will be allowed in the city, just as in the past.
He said that the Palestinian factions are ready to fight a battle to include East Jerusalem in the elections.
The CEC chairman said that the Palestinian political factions are going to meet in Cairo next week to discuss details about the elections, including how they will be conducted in the West Bank, which is ruled by the Palestinian Authority, and the Gaza Strip, run by the Islamic Hamas movement, in light of the 13-year division between them.
"The factions are going to meet in Cairo in one week to resolve all the technical problems so that we will have fair and transparent elections," said Nasser. "We realize that there are some problems, but we expect them to be resolved next week, and if they don’t, we (the CEC) will resolve them." Nasser stressed that with the issuing of the presidential decrees on elections, the "train is now moving in the right direction." He said that issuing a decree for holding legislative elections is very important because "the country should not be left without a legislative council." The current council was elected in January 2006 but was dissolved years later after it became ineffective in light of the division and the split between the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Nasser said that after two years of hard work to overcome all obstacles to hold elections, it became possible to hold them after being suspended for 15 years, explaining that the elections will be an opportunity for the young Palestinians, who never had a chance to participate in the democratic process, to be part of it now, calling on the young Palestinians to run in the elections and to vote.
A recent amendment to the electoral law allowed only political lists to run, compared to the previous law which allowed candidates to run representing districts and in political lists.
A quota was also set for women candidates, who will be represented by at least 25 percent of the 132-seat parliament.
Nasser said that the CEC expects to have monitors from the European Union and other countries as well as members of the civil society to overlook the elections.