Ma'an News Agency
January 27, 2012 - 1:00am

Elections can go ahead as planned on May 4 if President Mahmoud Abbas issues a decree in the coming days, a Central Elections Commission official said Thursday.

Jamil Khalidi, who heads the commission's office in Gaza, told Ma'an the elections register in Gaza could be updated within six weeks.

The Gaza office reopened on Tuesday after a two-year closure. Hamas shut down the office in November 2009 saying fair elections could not be held while political activists were threatened by the infighting.

Hamas won the last elections, which were held in 2006, but the party's rivalry with Fatah has paralyzed legislative and electoral processes and a new vote is overdue. Electoral records in the Gaza Strip have not been updated since 2006.

Hamas signed a reconciliation agreement with Fatah in May 2011 and factions agreed to hold elections within a year. The Hamas-led government handed over the keys to the CEC on Tuesday in line with its obligations under the unity deal.

Khalidi said the office needed new equipment but that the commission could prepare for a May vote. The elections commission will rent five head offices across the Gaza Strip to train employees and set up 254 voter registration centers in the enclave, he said.

While the commission is ready for a vote, whether elections will take place depends on factional consensus, he added.

Hamas and Fatah agreed in May last year to form a unity government of technocrats to prepare for elections. The administration has yet to be formed and the parties still lead rival governments in the West Bank and Gaza.

Several political leaders have expressed doubt that the overdue elections will take place in May.

Senior Hamas official Ismail Radwan told Ma'an on Wednesday that elections could not be held in the absence of a unity government.

Meanwhile, Fatah leader Thiab al-Loh said elections needed preparation. "Now we are not ready," he told Ma'an.

Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine official Jamil Mizher told Ma'an a May vote was impossible due to factions stalling.

"Holding elections needs a presidential decree, and logistical and administrative preparations which are not possible in light of stalled reconciliation measures," he said.

Meanwhile, Israel has detained four Palestinian MPs over the last week. Some 27 lawmakers are in jail in Israel; 21 of them have not been tried or charged with any offense.


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