Today, January 9, in 2005, the Palestinian Authority held its last election for the position of Chairman/President of the PA. Mahmoud Abbas was democratically elected. Section 3(2) of the 2007 PA Law Pertaining the General Elections states that “The presidential office term shall be four years. He/she shall not be elected for more than two terms.” Despite the ostensible PA law, Mahmoud Abbas can today celebrate the beginning of his 18th year of his first 4-year term as PA Chairman.
In preparation for the 2005 elections, the PA Central Elections Committee reported that there were 1,760,481 registered voters. In practice, since Hamas boycotted the elections, only 802,077 actually cast their vote. Of those who voted, only 501,448 voted for Abbas. In other words, Abbas was elected by only 28% of the Palestinians eligible to vote.
Elections for the PA Parliament have not taken place since 2006. While Abbas decided in December 2018 to dissolve the PA parliament elected then, promising new elections within 6 months, no such elections were called in the timeframe set by Abbas.
In January 2021, Abbas finally announced that PA parliamentary elections would be held in May 2021. However, as the date of the elections drew near and Abbas understood that his splintered Fatah party was going to lose to Hamas, he cancelled the elections.
While the EU’s own “2017 – 2020 Joint Strategy Towards a democratic and accountable Palestinian State” declared that the PA compliance with the “democratic principles” and the “holding of elections” were “non-negotiable principles,” in practice, not only were the demands negotiable, they were in fact completely irrelevant.
Notwithstanding the absence of any elections in over a decade and the complete lack of parliamentary activity (since the parliament has not actually met or functioned since mid 2006), PA financial records show that for the years 2011 – 2018 (inc.) the PA spent no less than 104,566,000 shekels (approximately $33 million/ €29 million) on the PA’s “Central Election Committee.” Similarly, the PA spent no less than 336,746,000 shekels (approximately $108 million/ €95 million) on the PA’s “Legislative Council” – i.e., the PA Parliament.
In November 2021, the PA and the EU inaugurated a new building for the PA Central Elections Committee. The EU had donated €6 million for the building. Seeing that no elections have been held for years, the EU might rightly ask itself what its money is going to?
As Palestinian Media Watch has already reported, in the absence of any real democratic tradition, when Abbas leaves the position of PA Chairman, the PA will most likely face a period of turmoil. According to Palestinian opinion polls, the leading candidates to replace Abbas as PA Chairman are Marwan Barghouti – a convicted terrorist serving 5 life sentences in an Israeli prison, inter alia, for his part in the murder of 5 people – or Ismail Haniyeh – the head of Hamas, designated by Israel, the US and the EU as a terror organization. If parliamentary elections were held based on the electoral lists submitted towards the later cancelled May elections, Hamas would again win a majority of the seats in the PA Parliament, as it did in the 2006 elections.
While Robert Kennedy Jr. said that “Democracy is messy, and it’s hard. It’s never easy,” democracy PA style, in which elections are a rare event, so far has proven easy-peasy for Abbas and his fellows in the Fatah party.
Reprinted with author’s permission from Palestinian Media Watch