With the Palestinian political horizon looking grim, reconciliation, elections and reform may be the only hope.
News of a major development in Palestinian politics was reached today in Cairo between leaders of various Palestinian factions.
A committee established by the reconciliation agreement signed in May 2011 to advance PLO reform has agreed to push for direct elections to the Palestinian National Council (PNC), the PLO’s parliament and highest legislative body, once polling and a mechanism can be reached. PNC elections, if held, would be a landmark accomplishment for Palestinian politics and pave the way for a representational government including Palestinians everywhere, not merely in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The move is highly popular among Palestinians, who see the deterioration in the PLO as a significant problem affecting political life. On March 15, 2011, Palestinian youth groups took to the streets in Ramallah calling for PNC elections. A a reconciliation agreement soon followed, signed in Cairo by Fatah and Hamas, along with other smaller factions.
The PNC has traditionally been comprised of appointed representatives from Palestinian political parties, trade and student unions, along with various other Palestinian groups and organizations located around the world. Direct elections to the PNC have never occurred due to the geo-political difficulties involved. Since the PLO and Israel signed the Oslo Agreement in 1993, the PNC has been increasingly marginalized in favor of the PA and barely constitutes a functioning body.
A dire situation
Beyond the headlines, Palestinian politics is in a state of crisis. Despite the achievements on paper, very little has been done on the ground to mend the divisions between Fatah in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza. Elections to the Palestinian Authority, which were supposed to take place within one year from the May 2011 agreement, have been stalled, with the Central Elections Commission unable to complete voter registration in Gaza. The reconciliation agreement and the prospect of power sharing in the Gaza Strip has exposed rifts within Hamas, as the Gaza-based leadership is clearly unhappy with the arrangement.
The political division and lack of elections to the Palestinian Authority have also created an untenable state where the status and legitimacy of the PA is tied directly to one man – Mahmoud Abbas. Without elections, any successor to Abbas would have no legitimacy to head either the PA or PLO, both of which Abbas currently leads.
This is all amplified by...Read More