Palestinian rights group questions PA call for local elections

Gaza-based group insists on fair elections in all parts of the occupied Palestinian territory (OPT)

Wednesday, 17 March, 2010 - 16:06
London, UK
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights

The Ramallah-based Cabinet of the Palestinian government has called for local elections to be held on 17 July 2010 in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) including the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

While the Central Elections Commission urges Palestinians to complete their voter registration, Gaza-based group Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) has voiced doubts regarding the possibility of holding fair elections, due to the political rift between the Fatah-led Palestinian government in the West Bank and Hamas-led authorities in the Gaza Strip.

PCHR has estimated that Hamas authorities in Gaza are unlikely to accept election calls from the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority (PA) in Ramallah, and that elections might be limited to local councils in the West Bank.

The group has objected to holding limited elections in the West Bank, saying their results would be “known in advance.” It also fears that Hamas authorities might initiate their own parallel elections in the Gaza Strip, whose results would also be known in advance and therefore invalid.

In a position paper issued on 18 February, the group voiced support for elections in principle, but pointed to a number of issues preventing the holding of fair local elections.

The group says fair elections cannot be held without first ensuring freedom of opinion and expression and the right to freedom of association for all parties and factions.

According to PCHR these conditions are challenged by current political divisions between Fatah and Hamas, which are causing an “unprecedented deterioration in the human rights situation” both in the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip.

Previous publications by Palestinian rights groups have exposed politically-motivated violations of human rights by both authorities, including restrictions on freedom of expression, arbitrary arrests, abuse and even torture of alleged political opponents.

The group has warned of the negative consequences of organizing elections without ensuring national consensus around them, and says that would reinforce divisions within the Palestinian public.

PCHR has urged governing authorities in all parts of the OPT to create conditions for free and fair elections. Until these are ensured, the group says, civil society should object to such elections and refrain from participating in them or legitimizing them in any way.…

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