PCHR Calls for Dialogue for an Inviting Atmosphere to Hold Free and Fair Elections
PCHR views with satisfaction the outcomes of the latest meetings held by the Central Elections Commission (CEC) Chairman to discuss holding general elections in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), and the political factions’ acceptance “to the principle of holding unsynchronized elections, starting with the parliamentary elections, to be followed with presidential elections in three months,” as declared by the CEC. PCHR calls for further discussion meetings with the stakeholders to create a proper atmosphere for holding free and fair elections.
During his latest speech at the United Nations General Assembly, Palestinian President Mahmoud ‘Abbas stressed that he will call for holding general elections in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, including occupied East Jerusalem, and whoever refuses to cooperate will be held accountable. Moreover, Hamas declared its preparedness for holding general and comprehensive elections that include the presidency, parliament and National Council. The President delegated Dr. Hanna Nasser, CEC Chairman, to resume contact with Palestinian political factions and concerned authorities to prepare for parliamentary elections, to be followed by presidential elections as declared by CEC. Dr. Hanna Naser held meetings with Palestinian national factions in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, emphasizing the factions’ positive attitude towards holding the elections in the upcoming phase.
PCHR reiterates its position on elections, considering it a constitutional right and an important step to restore the democratic process that has been disrupted since 2009. PCHR also believes that elections would be the solution for national unity, to end the division and restore respect for PA’s executive, judicial and legislative authorities. PCHR emphasizes its historic keenness to support holding periodic elections since the establishment of the PA in 1996. PCHR and other civil society organizations participated in election monitoring in across the stages of the electoral process starting from the 1996 parliamentary elections, local council elections in 2004-2005, presidential election in 2005 and parliamentary elections in 2006.
PCHR stresses that the next elections should include and guarantee the effective participation of Jerusalemites and the full enjoyment of their right to vote and to stand as a candidate, unlike their participation in the 1996 and 2006 elections when they voted at the Israeli post offices in accordance with the Oslo Agreement. It should be noted that Jerusalemites’ participation in the general elections is a politically sensitive issue and very important for stressing that Jerusalem is an integral part of the Palestinian Territory occupied in 1967 and the capital of Palestine.
There is a concern that Israeli authorities might hinder elections as it previously did in occupied East Jerusalem and make it hard for Jerusalemites to elect their representatives freely, especially in light of the systematic punitive measures Israel employs against Palestinian Jerusalemites in its efforts to create a Jewish majority in the city and annex it completely.
In light of the above, PCHR calls upon all parties in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to create an inviting atmosphere to hold fair and free elections where citizens can elect their representatives freely without intimidation, including:
- Agree on an electoral formula and law as well as establishing a court designated for elections’ affairs to guarantee free and elections;
- Cease political arrests and release all persons detained on grounds of freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly, and to allow the exercise of public freedoms; and
- Cease prosecution of journalists and restrictions on their freedoms, abort the decision to block websites, and amend the Cybercrimes Law of 2018 to comply with international standards.
PCHR calls upon the international community to intervene and to pressure Israel to stop its crimes in the oPt, and to provide a good atmosphere that enable Palestinians to practice their right to vote and elect their representatives without any hindrances or difficulties, especially in occupied East Jerusalem. The oPt is under tight restrictions on the freedom of movement, especially in the West Bank as IOF continues to impose restrictions on movement through the establishment of hundreds of military checkpoints between villages, cities and camps, and isolate them from each other.