NGO representatives and academics demanded to issue a decree that states of holding general elections, both presidential and legislative, and agreeing to organize the elections according to full proportional representation.
These demands came during a virtual dialogue session held by the Palestinian Network of NGOs (PNGO) entitled, " Elections: an opportunity to revive democracy and achieve reconciliation". This workshop was a part of the project to strengthen democracy and build the capacity of Palestinian NGOs, which is implemented in partnership with Norwegian Popular Aid (NPA).
The attendees expressed their hope that the elections would constitute a true turning point to restore national cohesion and Palestinian unity regarding political systems and authorities.
Dr Mukhaimer Abu Saada, head of the political science department at Al-Azhar University in Gaza, stressed that the legislative and presidential elections and the Palestinian National Council are vital as they convey a civilized image of the Palestinian people. It also promotes that Palestinians, under Israeli occupation, believe in democracy and the ballot box and are committed to the peaceful transfer of power.
Abu Saada believed that holding the elections as soon as possible constitutes an opportunity for the participation of a Palestinian generation that did not participate in any elections, referring that the last elections were held 15 years ago. It is a constitutional and legal entitlement, he stressed, and we must work to bring it to reality for the sake of improving the Palestinian situation.
Abu Saada in his paper on Palestinian and international conditions for holding elections considered that the election process must be pushed forward, and any hindering obstacles must be removed, especially after Palestinian institutions have lost their legitimacy, and there is no oversight of the two executive authorities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
In this sense, he expressed his hope that the call for organizing elections will be serious, which requires certain conditions like unifying institutions and forming a national unity government to ensure a satisfying result for all parties.
There must also be consensus on the election court, Abu Saada said while pointing to a previous agreement where the court in Gaza should rule on electoral cases related to the Gaza Strip and that its counterpart in the West Bank should deal with cases related to the West Bank.
There is an obstacle to organizing elections in the occupied city of Jerusalem, he added, wondering whether the Israeli occupation authorities would allow it or not. In the same context, Abu Saada indicated that there was a previous tendency for President Mahmoud Abbas to issue a decree setting the date for organizing the elections, and the international community should pressure the occupation government to agree to organize it in Jerusalem.
The Israeli occupation authorities can thwart the elections, according to Abu Saada, by arresting any of the candidates, and preventing movement and election propaganda, and putting other obstacles in place since we are at a time when the Deal of the Century and the illegal settlement policies turned Jerusalem and the West Bank into buffer areas.
Moreover, Abu Saada stressed the importance of having Arab, regional and international support for organizing elections, although he doubted its availability due to the recent normalization was, which the Arab League failed to condemn.
The lack of any guarantees by the European Union to organize elections creates a problematic reality with the rest of the world being busy fighting the Coronavirus and waiting for the US presidential elections results next month.
He believed that the Palestinian elections are not on the agenda of the international community at the present time, especially since President Abbas is not serious about issuing an electoral decree, or holding a meeting of factions before the date of the US elections on the third of next month.
For his part, the director of the Arab World Observatory for Democracy and Elections, Aref Jaffal, said that reconciliation through democracy and the ballot box may be stronger than reconciliation through quotas.
In a paper on The Role of Civil Society Organizations in Pressuring for Elections, Jaffal said that there is no consensus in civil society about whether reconciliation takes place before the elections or vice versa.
Jaffal pointed out that the reconciliation dialogues in Cairo always dealt with forming a government as a priority prior to elections.
Furthermore, he stated that civil society organizations demand and work to provide freedoms, the environment, and the appropriate climate to organize free, fair and democratic elections, and to agree on a unified electoral law according to proportional representation.
Adding to that, Jaffal pointed out that civil society organizations submitted a proposal to form a national unity government before the elections to supervise it and provide everything that would make it successful.
Civil society organizations need to raise their voices and deliver their messages to the general secretaries, the government, and the president, Jaffal added, especially considering the absence of any control over the executive authority, after the Constitutional Court dissolved the Legislative Council.
Amending the election law is critical, he continued, so as not to touch its essence, and expanding popular participation in elections, by establishing a 30% quota for women, and encouraging youth to participate.
Jaffal saw the importance of agreeing on a pact of honour between the factions regarding the elections, acceptance of their results, the peaceful transfer of power, the formation of a national coalition government, and the unification of institutions.
Also, Jaffal called on the president to issue the decree before the US elections, expressing his hope that it will be issued next week with a confirmed date, pointing out that there are calls in Ramallah to form electoral lists.
Amjad Al Shawa, PNGO director, opened the session by affirming that the general elections are a long-awaited dream, expressing his hope that the political will to organize them will be available, especially after holding the first general secretaries meeting last month in Beirut, and waiting for second soon.
Al-Shawa assured that the elections are an important path to confronting the deal of the century, the annexation, and occupation plans, ending the division, restoring cohesion, and confronting normalization. He believed that the elections would correct the course, ease the political, economic, social, and living crises, and end the political and geographical division.
Finally, he considered that civil society organizations should work to organize elections according to proportional representation and their success, and not turn them into a manoeuvre, and go to the streets and talk to citizens that the elections represent a way out to confront the deal of the century.