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Palestinians overwhelmingly reject “politically motivated” suspension of elections, poll shows


By Matt Matthews - September 28, 2016
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Nearly two-thirds of Palestinians condemn the decision to suspend local elections in the West Bank and Gaza, according to a new survey by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PCPSR).

Following a dispute between Fatah and Hamas over their candidate lists, on September 8 the Palestine High Court issued an unpopular order to suspend the democratic process.

The elections would have seen candidates from the two parties squaring off for the first time in a decade, and 61% of Palestinians believe their cancellation was “politically motivated.”

Center-left Fatah and Islamist Hamas, Palestine’s two major political parties, have been unable to reconcile their differences in the decade following the Palestinian Civil War 2006-07.

The conflict saw Hamas seize control of the Gaza Strip, after Fatah bowed to international pressure and refused to acknowledge a Hamas victory in Gazan elections.

Since then, Fatah has retained control only of the West Bank. A reconciliation process has achieved only meagre successes, such as the brief formation of a rapidly-collapsing 'unity government’ in 2014.

Local elections in October 2012 were boycotted by Hamas, leaving the Fatah list as the only viable option on ballot papers.


Dr. Khalil Shikaki


Speaking at a press conference on September 27, PCPSR director Dr. Khalil Shikaki said: “there is some tension in people’s minds between national unity and the desire for a more democratic political system.”

Prior to their cancellation, these local elections were being seen as a chance to express dissent within the Palestinian political framework, even at the cost of political cohesiveness across the West Bank.

It is therefore suspected that Fatah-backed president Mahmoud Abbas moved to block the elections, fearing Hamas gains in the West Bank.

35% of Palestinians believe Fatah and Hamas colluded to cancel the elections, while 23% blame Fatah alone. Only 14% of people think that Hamas are solely responsible.

If the elections do go ahead at a later date, 59% of Palestinians think they could pave the way for democratic parliamentary and presidential elections.

And with 61% of Palestinians currently hoping Abbas will resign, the Fatah premier is unlikely to hasten an electoral test of his popularity.

Anti-Palestinian Authority sentiment, clearly expressed in response to the scrapping of the elections, is also reflected in other key policy areas.

In the aftermath of a summer in which hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have experienced repeated cut-offs in their water supply, only 45% of respondents to the PCPSR survey laid the blame on Israeli policy.

By contrast, 49% blamed the PA, citing direct and indirect factors such as governmental mismanagement, failing infrastructure and water theft within the PA’s jurisdiction.

“People are really pointing the finger [at the PA], even though we know the amount of water that reaches the Palestinians is in Israeli hands,” Dr. Shikaki said.

Similarly, Palestinian institutions are seen as culpable for the deterioration in the security situation around Nablus, with 36% of people directly blaming the PA security services and a further 29% blaming the Palestinian justice system.

Dr. Shikaki noted that the Israeli presence in the West Bank worsened the situation, meaning PA security services are “unable to access all areas of the West Bank.” But this opinion was not reflected in polling.

41% of people also view the security services as corrupt, saying their purported crackdowns on criminals in fact target those opposed to the PA.

Other results emphasize the deep divisions which run through Palestinian politics.

For one, Palestinians are beginning to reject both a two-state and a one-state resolution. Respectively, 56% and 67% of people say these models for future Israeli-Arab relations as doomed to failure.

Gazans, meanwhile, are “supportive of violence and compromise simultaneously”, Dr Shikaki observed. In the besieged Strip, majorities expressed faith in both armed resistance to the Israeli blockade and the peace process.

Other than the fact that 89% of Palestinians view ISIS as a radical group which does not represent true Islam, virtually no political issues enjoy near-universal consensus.

Marc Frings of Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, a German political foundation which contributed to the research, said the “only winner” emerging from the past three months was the Electoral Commission itself.

“No-one publicly doubted their ability to conduct an election,” he said, finding a rare silver lining in a report which otherwise paints a gloomy picture of the Palestinian political situation.

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