Ramallah, Asharq Al-Awsat- High-level sources in Fatah have asserted to Asharq Al-Awsat that a final decision has been made on a presidential decree [related to the upcoming elections] by the Palestinian president to be issued before 25 October, as Asharq Al-Awsat had reported earlier.
The sources went on to say that if Hamas responds to the Egyptian paper and if agreement is reached to postpone the elections – as part of a comprehensive agreement “that does not bring back the siege” – President Abbas will issue the decree setting a new date for the elections that does not go beyond the first six months of next year. However, if Hamas does not respond [to the Egyptian paper], Abbas will issue a decree keeping the date unchanged, that is, 25 January 2010.
Abbas finds himself compelled to issue this decree next month since the Palestinian bylaws stipulate that the decree should be issued 100 days at least before the elections that are now scheduled for 25 January. “Otherwise,” said the sources, “we will be breaking the law and become in a constitutional vacuum”. During the dialog sessions in Cairo, Fatah had turned down past proposals by Hamas to postpone the elections by two years. Fatah believes that such an extension would consolidate the authority of Hamas over the Gaza Strip. According to the same sources, if Hamas does not agree, Fatah will resort to the full proportional representation system in accordance with the Palestinian bylaws that consider the homeland as one [electoral] district. The elections will be held with whoever participates in voting based on the premise that any vote rate in these elections represents the Palestinian whole, as is done in all elections. Observers say that Hamas may turn down the Egyptian paper for two reasons: First, the paper does not offer a decisive solution to the issue of the detainees. Second, the paper does not address openly the issue of restructuring the security organs in the West Bank as in the Gaza Strip. The sources add that if the elections are held on schedule without the agreement of Hamas, the residents of the West Bank and Gazans residing in the West Bank will participate as well as those that can participate from Gaza. Moreover, the residents of Gaza can run in the elections via the lists of the factions and the independents.
The source added: “For instance, Fatah selects its candidates from the West Bank and Gaza in one list (for the legislative elections) and the electorate votes on this list. It is not necessary for all the people to participate in any elections. Normally, the voter turnout is half or even less”. Fatah believes that this is the only legal solution to hold the elections without the approval of Hamas while also announcing that its measure [to hold the elections] was hampered in one part of the homeland that is under the control of an outlaw militia (Gaza). Although Abbas will issue this decree, he leans toward reaching an agreement with Hamas to hold the elections. A number of Fatah leaders oppose this step. They believe that it might consolidate the rift. Abu-Mazin, however, cannot wait for Hamas forever, particularly since all the institutions (the presidency, the legislature, and the government) will lose their legitimacy by January 2010. Furthermore, Fatah does not believe that a presidential decree setting the date of the elections conflicts with the reconciliation efforts. In fact, these sources affirmed that these efforts will proceed even after the decree is issued, and “if an agreement is reached, it will be the elections commission that will announce that it needs more time to prepare for the elections in the West Bank and Gaza”.
Hamas rejects holding the elections without an agreement and Fatah is saying that since no agreement could be reached, let us go back to the people who are the source of all the powers. Without an agreement, Hamas will bar any elections in Gaza. This means that the elections will be confined only to the West Bank. Dr Khalil al-Juraysi, a legal expert and lawyer, said that President Mahmud Abbas must issue a decree calling for elections on their constitutional date of 25 January 2010. Or he should issue another decree setting a new date in accordance with the law that such a decree calling for elections should be issued three months before elections are held. In a written opinion, Al-Juraysi added: “We cannot come to 25 October without President Mahmud Abbas having issued a decree. Since 25 January is the date, the president is compelled until 25 October to issue this decree so that the Palestinians would not be faced with a power vacuum”. Al-Juraysi pointed out that “if agreement is reached on postponing the elections, the president should issue such a decree announcing the postponement of the elections from 25 January to another date within the first three months of next year”.