Saud Abu Ramadan, Emad Drimly
February 3, 2011 - 1:00am

Leaders of various Palestinian political factions argued on Thursday over when to hold new presidential and legislative elections on the Palestinian territories, as efforts to achieve a reconciliation between rival Fatah and Hamas had been stalled for more than three years.

Over the past several days, leaders of several factions in Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) held a series of meetings to discuss the proposal of holding the elections soon. The proposal was supported by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah movement, but was opposed by Hamas movement, which says reconciliation and end of split should come first.

Amin Maqbool, member of Fatah movement's revolutionary council, told Xinhua the PLO factions began to seriously look for all the available options that ensure holding the elections "which is a constitutional obligation the Palestinian people have been waiting for."

"Therefore, it is unreasonable that the Palestinian people and the leaders of the factions keep restricted by the veto of Hamas, which prevents and blocks holding the elections, not only in the Gaza Strip, but in the entire Palestinian territories," said Maqbool.

Fatah movement's leaders and other faction leaders began their debates over when to hold the elections based on efforts to narrow the internal Palestinian rift. According to Maqbool, the elections must be held in all the Palestinian territories, including the Gaza Strip.

A senior Palestinian official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Abbas had told members of Fatah revolutionary council that he intended to call for the elections to be held soon.

"President Abbas is expected to call for holding the elections soon, but he hasn't set up a specific date for holding it," the official told Xinhua, adding Abbas reiterated that he was not intending to run again for any elections

The last parliamentary elections were held in January 2006, when Hamas movement defeated Fatah. The Presidential elections were held in January 2005, when Abbas was elected as the president after Yasser Arafat died in 2004.

The PLO Central Council, the minimized parliament of the PLO, decided to extend the presidential term for Abbas until the new presidential elections are held. Hamas legislative term ended in January 2010, but the Islamic movement rejected holding the elections.

The issue of when to hold the elections is linked to ending the splits and disputes between Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip since 2007, and Abbas and Fatah movement, which rule the West Bank.

Sources close to Fatah movement told Xinhua the demand for immediate elections has become urgent, adding that "all the parties, including Hamas, have to set and talk about preparing the ground for holding the elections."

Meanwhile, the Palestinian National Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad called two days ago on all the political Palestinian powers, including Hamas, "to start seriously thinking about holding the general elections in parallel with holding the municipal elections."

The Palestinian High Court of Justice decided last September to annul a decision of Fayyad's cabinet to postpone the municipal elections because Hamas opposes holding it in Gaza. The cabinet decided this week that municipal elections have to be held and a date for holding it will be decided soon.

The Palestinians, however, are still afraid that if Hamas insist on not holding the elections in the Gaza Strip until reconciliation is achieved, the elections will be held only in the West Bank, a situation which would deepen the split between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

Abdel Rahim Mallouh, deputy chairman of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), told Xinhua it is better to elect the president by the Palestinians in both the West Bank and Gaza, "otherwise, we will have two presidents, one for Gaza and one for the West Bank."

"The idea of holding the elections in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip at the same time is still under the discussions of the Palestinian factions. The problem has to be resolved basically with Hamas movement, otherwise there will be no elections at all and the split will be stronger," said Mallouh.

Sami Abu Zuhri, Hamas movement's spokesman in Gaza, told Xinhua Hamas movement rejects holding any elections before finalizing the conciliation and reaching an agreement on holding it. He insisted his movement will never recognize the results of any elections in the West Bank.


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