Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has held his post without any elections since 2005 and he now wants to dissolve the parliament, where his fierce rival Hamas has a majority.
Tensions between Palestine's two main political factions, the Fatah and Hamas, have increased after Palestine Authority’s disputed leader Mahmoud Abbas announced that Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) should be dissolved after a court decision.
During a meeting of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO), which is led by the Fatah, on December 22, Abbas said a ‘constitutional court’ decided to dissolve the parliament and to hold elections in six months.
Hamas warned Abbas that the court is illegal and any unmediated elections will bring more chaos and political instability into divided Palestinian territories. Hamas has held the Gaza Strip and the Fatah has led the West Bank since 2006, when the latest Palestinian elections were held.
“The court is itself illegal and I recognise that. The problem is not just about the court, which should have never been formed. It is just a tool for Abu Mazen (Abbas’ nickname) to try to rule by dictation by being a dictator,” said Diana Buttu, a Palestinian human rights lawyer, who used to work as an advisor to both Abbas and the Palestinian Authority.
Abbas’ presidential term ended long ago in 2009, since when he held the leadership without any elections through political maneuvering.
“If you look at where we’re at, we have not had an election for president since 2005. Abu Mazen’s term supposed to end in 2009 and this January it will be ten years after his term expired,” Buttu told TRT World from the West Bank, pointing out Abbas’ unwillingness to discuss his presidential term and his one-man rule.
Buttu also reminded that since 2006, the Palestine parliament has also had no elections.
“We definitely need elections. The problem is why Abu Mazen is calling elections now. Not because he wants a better outcome for Palestine, but because he is trying to threaten Hamas that if they don’t come and they don’t agree with his plan, he will dissolve the parliament,” she said.
“That’s the problem.”
She thinks Abbas, who has previously justified not having elections by saying that the elections could not be held in divided territories altogether, is under pressure in the face of inconsequential reconciliation talks between Hamas and the Fatah. He gets a lot of pressure from all sides to stop putting sanctions on Hamas-held Gaza, she observed.
“The only card he has left is to say that Hamas is no longer legal. That’s the only thing he can do. That’s why, he is calling for elections.”
After the 2006 elections, Hamas received the most votes, getting a majority at the parliament. But because of an international outcry against Hamas, the Palestinian party could not form a government. As a result, the group’s armed wing claimed the Gaza Strip from the Fatah, refusing to recognise both Abbas and the Fatah’s authority over Gaza.
“Nobody is pushing for any elections. Everybody is right now politically illegitimate,” Buttu observed, reminding that Abbas’ election to the presidency was not “a lifetime appointment.”
The Palestinian deadlock, mostly a production of Abbas’ one-man rule, makes ordinary Palestinians feel “hopeless” about their political elites, Buttu viewed.
“The president has not been down to Gaza since 2006,” Buttu said. If he still calls the elections, Hamas will not accept the elections to proceed in Gaza, regarding the decision as illegitimate, she thinks.
On the other hand, in the West Bank, where Abbas’ Fatah faction has ruled since 2006, Abbas will not allow any presidential elections to be held at all, Buttu predicts.
“So we’re stuck. We are stuck between people who want to hold on power (at all costs) and who do not see there is a bigger issue out there.”
Buttu sees Israel benefitting the most from the split between Palestinian groups, which have a problem “focusing on a bigger picture, bigger struggle,” against the Zionist occupation.
“They (Israelis) love it,” said Buttu, referring to the Abbas announcement of dissolving the parliament.
“Israel is the happiest ever. Everything Abu Mazen does is makes Israel happy because he has never challenged Israel. Instead, he just sits back and does nothing,” Buttu said.
“Israel loves there is a dispute between Hamas and the Fatah.”