|Position Paper: On the Call for Local Elections in Palestinian Authority Territories in July 2010|
|Thursday, 18 February 2010 00:00|
In its weekly session held on 08 February 2010, the Cabinet of the Palestinian Government in Ramallah called for elections in all local councils in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip on 17 July 2010. The Cabinet requested the Central Elections Commission (CEC) to start necessary preparations for organizing the elections.
On 09 February 2010, Minister of Local Government in Ramallah, Dr. Khaled
al-Qawasmi, stated that the Ministry, in cooperation with the CEC, initiated
preparations to hold elections in local councils on 17 July
Following the Cabinet's decision, on 11 February 2010, the CEC met with representatives of political parties and factions to stress the CEC’s commitment to a successful electoral process, and stated its adherence to the principles of integrity and free participation for everyone. The CEC reported on its web site that no representatives of Hamas attended the meeting, despite an invitation from the CEC.
On 13 February 2010, the CEC issued a media release, in which it stated that "in compliance with Palestinian law and the Cabinet’s decision issued on 8 February calling for elections in the local councils on 17 July, the CEC confirms its readiness to administer elections." The CEC also called on all political parties, factions and other electoral stakeholders to cooperate with the Commission to ensure free and fair elections, stressing that the Voter Registry Update would begin within the next three weeks.
Over the past days, and since the declaration of the aforementioned Cabinet's decision, PCHR has conducted serious and deep discussions on its implications and consequences. In conclusion of these discussions, while PCHR reiterates its full support for elections in principle and the need to hold both general and local elections, it notes the following:
1) According to Article 4(1) of Local Councils Elections Law No. (10) of 2005 – on which the Cabinet's decision is based – " Local elections shall be held in all local councils on the same day, once every four years upon a decision issued by the Cabinet." The CEC, according to Article 5, "may request the postponement of the elections in one or more local councils for a period not exceeding four weeks for technical needs and elections integrity purposes" and "the postponement decision shall be issued by the Cabinet."
2) The Cabinet's call for local elections in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in July 2010 is unrealistic and impractical given the ongoing division in the Palestinian arena. The boycott of Hamas' representatives to the meeting of political parties and factions indicates that the Palestinian Government in Gaza is not expected to accept holding local elections in Gaza based on a decision taken by the Government in Ramallah. Subsequently, the decision taken by the Cabinet in Ramallah, if implemented, will be effectively applied to local councils in the West Bank only, and no elections will be held at the same time in the Gaza Strip; a fact which the Government in Ramallah realizes.
3) It is impossible to hold transparent and impartial elections that reflect the electorate's will without providing appropriate conditions and freeing public liberties, which means stopping human rights violations, including stopping political arrests; respecting the right to freedom of opinion and expression and the right to freedom of association; and ensuring free political activities for all political parties and factions. These conditions are not available now in the Palestinian arena under the ongoing political division, which has caused unprecedented deterioration in the human rights situation in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
4) PCHR absolutely rejects holding elections in local council, or any other elections, whose results are known in advance. Under the current situation, the results of such elections and the identities of winning political parties are known even before holding such elections.
5) Under the current atmosphere of division, which has been reinforced over the past years, including actions and reactions between the two parties of the conflict in Gaza and Ramallah, it is not unforeseen that the Government in Gaza may call for similar elections in the Gaza Strip, whose results would be known in advance.
6) PCHR in concerned that organizing elections without a national consensus may have negative consequences and reinforce division.
7) The decision to call for elections without the availability of appropriate conditions to ensure their transparency and impartiality raises doubts concerning the motives and objectives of such elections. If democracy is the sought goal, it is imperative first to create an appropriate atmosphere to organize general elections too, as the constitutionally due dates for presidential and legislative elections have passed without any efforts being made to create an appropriate atmosphere to organize them.
8) Insistence on holding local elections without creating an appropriate atmosphere to ensure their transparency and impartiality is unacceptable, and civil society organizations should reject it, especially through abstaining from participating in the observation of such elections in order not legitimize them.