Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Palestinian elections in January?

Perhaps. Maan is reporting that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will issue a decree demanding presidential and legislative elections before January 25. Sources close to the president indicated that his West Bank government is willing to pursue reconciliation efforts with Hamas up until the date of the announced elections.

It is unclear whether Hamas would be allowed to run for West Bank positions, if Gazans will be allowed to vote, or if Gaza offices will appear on the ballot as a symbolic attempt to build a government-in-exile for the Gaza Strip.

This appears to be Abbas' latest move to force Hamas' hand in reconciliation efforts, pushing them to either join a unity government or relinquish their offices and participate in comprehensive national elections. If elections do go forward, it will only increase Abbas' favor with the West, although it runs the serious risk of driving a wedge even deeper between the rival factions if Hamas is now allowed or refuses to participate. Abbas is taking a serious gamble as well. Palestinians will not accept a new government as legitimate if all factions, including Hamas, are not involved in the process.

Abbas is expected to announce the date of the new elections before October 25 and more details should be revealed at that time.

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