Ma'an News Agency
November 13, 2009 - 1:00am

The Central Elections Commission does not have the capacity to hold elections on 24 January, the body's chairman Hanna Nasser announced on Thursday.

Nasser said in a Ramallah news conference that the commission sent a letter to President Mahmoud Abbas explaining the situation, and noting that it is not up to the commission to decide when to hold elections, if they are not held on the 24th. The decision will effectively postpone Palestinian presidential and legislative elections to an unknown date.

A statement from Abbas' office said the president would issue a decision "in light of this development" following consultation with Palestinian institutions and Basic Law experts.

Abbas' spokesperson blamed what he termed a "Hamas-imposed ban on the Central Elections Commission from entering Gaza" for the delay, calling it "evidence that Hamas does not value the unity of the homeland or national reconciliation."

During his initial announcement, Nasser explained that he met earlier with the speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council and Hamas member Aziz Dweik, and asked him to approach the de facto government in Gaza about preparations for elections in the Strip. The idea of elections and preparations was not met with approval in Gaza, Nasser said.

Responding to the news, Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri said he was not surprised that the elections would be postponed.

"This is a natural result of a lack of appropriate conditions," Abu Zuhri said. "It is evidence of the credibility of Hamas' position, which rejected the call for elections before reconciliation is achieved."

Fatah spokesman Ahmad Asaf said Hamas was responsible for delaying the elections.

"Hamas demonstrates yet again that it puts its own organizational interests and regional alliances ahead of the national interest of Palestinians," Asaf said. "Today we have a party that is callously threatening the results of an entire decade's worth of progress achieved by Palestinians and the Palestine Liberation Organization."

In a statement, he added that by "preventing elections, Hamas is trying to destroy the Palestinian political system, which it damaged through its coup of Gaza in 2007, rejecting conciliation, and threatening to establish a new body other than the PLO."

"Hamas would rather deepen Palestinian division by focusing on its emirate in Gaza and by passing along messages to Israel, introducing itself as a substitute to Fatah and the PLO, and a partner in negotiations - even at the price of Palestinian national rights and to accept a walled-in state with temporary borders," Asaf added.

He concluded by slamming "Hamas adventures and carelessness vis-a-vis the fate of Palestinians, particularly at this historic moment during which the national Palestinian leadership is undergoing with patience and strength all the pressures aimed at violating our national and legitimate rights," and praised "the efforts of those who worked at the Central Elections Commission - before Hamas shut it down."

Abbas declared last week that he would not run for a second term as president of the Western-backed Palestinian Authority. In his announcement he said he felt frustrated by an inability to move forward on peace negotiations with Israel, but put much blame on Hamas for the situation in the Gaza Strip.

He cited Israel's failure to stop all settlement building in the West Bank and disappointment with the United States over its failure to back the Palestinians demand for a freeze.


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