The Palestinian elections were set to become the first vote in 15 years.
Qatar’s former Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani, known commonly as HBJ, took to Twitter to comment on the delay of the long-anticipated Palestinian parliamentary and presidential elections.
“The announcement of the postponement of the legislative elections has brought Palestinians back to square one, and although the reasons that prompted Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to postpone the elections are clear…it is the president’s duty at this stage of his life to transfer power peacefully and democratically,” the former Qatari official tweeted on Sunday.
عاد الفلسطينيون مع الإعلان عن تأجيل الانتخابات التشريعية إلى نقطة الصفر.ومع أن الأسباب التي حملت الرئيس الفلسطيني محمود عباس على تأجيل الانتخابات واضحة لنا فإن ما أريد أن أقوله هو أنه من واجب الرئيس في ظل الظروف الراهنة وفي هذه المرحلة من العمر أن ينقل السلطة بشكل سلمي وديموقراطي
— حمد بن جاسم بن جبر (@hamadjjalthani) May 2, 2021
“The next phase needs young leadership that can lead the Palestinian people to safety in all areas and discussions,” he added.
On Friday, Palestinian President Abbas announced the postponement of elections, set to become the first in 15 years, noting uncertainty over whether Israel would allow elections to take place in East Jerusalem, the occupied West Bank and Gaza.
“Our people are excited for elections. There is enthusiasm… but what about Jerusalem? Where is Jerusalem?” said Abbas, saying the vote will be delayed until he ensures the participation of the people in Jerusalem.
Meanwhile, a Reuters report suggested divisions within Abbas’ Fatah part were to blame for the delays, while Palestinian commentators speculated it was due to avoid losing to Hamas – providing a repeat scenario of 2006.
“It was obvious that Fatah was divided in particular over individuals, about the dates, and I think no one was ready to run for the presidential elections or compete with Mahmoud Abbas,” Dr. Mahjoob Zweiri, director of the Gulf Studies Center at Qatar University told Doha News.
Abbas also saw younger challengers within his own party as a threat, jailing Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti and Nasser Al-Qudwa, who is also the son of party’s late founder Yasser Arafat, in March.
Dr. Zweiri believes that Abbas also capitalised on the complications caused by Israel in allowing elections to proceed in Jerusalem as it was his decision to allow the vote to take place on the scheduled May 22nd and July 31st dates.
“I think the Palestinian Authority are trying to pressure the international community to put more effort to pressure Israel,” he said, describing it as a “miscalculated” move as the Palestinian issue has not been a top priority for several countries, including the US and nations in Europe.
“The status of fragility of the Palestinian situation is being seen for years now and the world has gotten used to that.”
Meanwhile, Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh also urged Abbas to proceed with the polls despite complications imposed by Israel, calling for dialogue to resolve the issues.
“In Hamas, we don’t want to turn the situation into an internal Palestinian struggle. We want the language of dialogue, communication and dialogue to prevail among all Palestinians,” said Haniyeh.
Commenting on the decision Mohammad Dahlan, a former Palestinian security minister and a critic of Abbas exiled in the UAE, described the postponement as “illegal”.
“It was made by a president who lost his legitimacy over a decade,” said Dahlan.
The last 2006 Palestinian elections ended with victory for President Abbas as well as Hamas, which secured 74 seats out of 132.
Fatah and Hamas were later locked in a bitter war from 2006 until 2007, resulting in the killing of more than 600 Palestinians and the division of territories between the parties.
Hamas controls the Gaza Strip while Fatah holds the Palestinian Authority [PA] government in Ramallah.
Hamas and Fatah have both engaged in several reconciliation attempts, though none have borne fruit. Progress was made last year when Hamas said it was ready to hold elections and resume dialogue.
However, the date of the delayed elections has yet to be announced.