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First Palestinian elections in 15 years to be postponed

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First Palestinian elections in 15 years to be postponed

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Photo: Reuters

Originally scheduled for today, elections to the Palestinian Legislative Council—the parliament of the Palestinian Authority—have been postponed indefinitely.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas announced the delay in late April. As justification, Abbas, who also serves as the leader of Fatah, the West Bank’s ruling political party, cited ambiguity regarding ballot access for Palestinians in East Jerusalem. Abbas’ critics nevertheless suggest that the postponement merely allows him to retain his leadership position.

Opinion polls indicate that division within Fatah and rising support for Hamas—a rival political and militant group that controls Gaza—would have forced Abbas from power. While postponing the elections forestalls Fatah’s loss, doing so will worsen tensions between Fatah and Hamas. Though the two groups’ relationship improved as their leaders worked to finalize election procedures, Hamas immediately condemned Abbas’ move to delay. Accordingly, expect violent anti-Fatah demonstrations in the near-term.

Having organized heavily ahead of the planned vote, Hamas is well-positioned for future elections. Yet Israel is unlikely to negotiate with a Hamas government, as its leaders remain reticent to renounce political violence. Recent conflict with Israel makes such a disavowal highly unlikely. As such, a viable political settlement for Palestine remains improbable in the medium-term.

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