Thursday, October 29, 2009

Hamas bars PA from organizing elections in Gaza

Oct. 29, 2009
Khaled Abu Toameh , THE JERUSALEM POST

Hamas announced on Wednesday that it won't allow the Palestinian Authority Central Elections Committee to start preparations in the Gaza Strip for holding new presidential and parliamentary elections on January 24, 2010. Hamas's decision to ban the vote in the Gaza Strip raises doubts regarding PA President Mahmoud Abbas's ability to hold the elections on time.

Hamas and other Palestinian factions have also declared their intention to boycott the vote, leaving Abbas's Fatah faction alone in the race.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said that the elections committee, which was entrusted earlier this week by Abbas to start preparing for the elections, was an "illegal body" that was established on the basis of an "unconstitutional" decision.

Abu Zuhri said that the committee was established in violation of "understandings" reached between Hamas and Fatah through Egyptian mediators in recent weeks.

He added that according to the ostensible understandings, the committee was supposed to be established in agreement between the two parties.

The spokesman stressed that Hamas would not allow the committee to operate in the Gaza Strip. He said that the Hamas government would take the necessary measures to enforce the ban.

The Hamas-controlled Ministry of Interior threatened to punish any Palestinian who participated in the elections or helped Abbas's elections committee in the Gaza Strip. The ministry said that Hamas was opposed to holding any elections before a "reconciliation" agreement was reached with Fatah. It pointed out that Abbas did not have the authority to issue a "presidential decree" calling for new elections.

Jailed Fatah operative Marwan Barghouti also expressed his opposition to holding elections before ending the power struggle between Hamas and Fatah.

In a message from his prison cell, Barghouti, who is serving five life terms in prison, said it was inconceivable that the elections would take place before the two parties signed an agreement to end their differences.

Barghouti urged Hamas to sign the Egyptian-brokered "reconciliation" accord as soon as possible so as to pave the way for holding the elections on time.

He added that while he supported Abbas's decision to call new elections as required by the PA Basic Law, he does not see how the vote could take place in light of the continued power struggle and rivalry between Hamas and Fatah.

Meanwhile, a senior Fatah official hinted that Abbas may run for another term in the planned elections.

Amin Makboul, one of the heads of the Fatah Revolutionary Council, denied that Abbas had asked the faction to start searching for a new candidate.

Makboul claimed that the Israeli media was behind the "malicious rumors," adding that "President Abbas was much stronger than people think." Makboul revealed that Fatah has established 16 different committees to prepare for the elections.

Another sign of Abbas's intention to seek reelection was provided by several "public opinion polls" published over the past few days by Fatah loyalists in the West Bank and which showed that a majority of Palestinians would vote for him.

The PA's newspapers have also joined the campaign by publishing a series of articles praising Abbas as the most suitable candidate.

Columnist Omar al-Ghul wrote in the Al-Hayat Al-Jadeeda daily that Fatah would not find a better candidate than Abbas.

"Objectivity and national responsibility require us to say the truth," he said. "And the truth is that the president [Abbas] is the best and most suitable candidate who has the ability to defend the cause, the unity of the homeland and people and the Palestinian democratic and political system."
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