Photo: UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants on September 19, 2016. Credit: UN - Photo: 2021

Middle East Coordinator Calls for New and Timely  Palestinian Election  Date

By Radwan Jakeem

NEW YORK (IDN) — A senior UN official in charge of the region has urged the Palestinian authorities to set a new date for heading to the polls, originally scheduled for May 22.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had announced the postponement of the planned parliamentary elections, amidst a dispute over voting rights in Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem, according to news reports.

UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Tor Wennesland, said on April 30 that he understood the “disappointment of the many Palestinians” who had gone nearly 16 years without being able to cast their vote.

Israel governs voting conditions in the city, and Palestinians are reportedly insisting that all 150,000 eligible voters be allowed to cast their ballots — far more than under a previous agreement with Israeli authorities.

“Facing this difficult situation, we decided to postpone the date of holding legislative elections until the participation of Jerusalem and its people is guaranteed”, Mr Abbas said, on Palestinian television. 

The last Palestine-wide ballot in 2006 fuelled a factional split, with extremist group Hamas gaining control over the Gaza Strip, while Mr Abbas’s Fatah party won a majority in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. 

Mr Wennesland encouraged Palestinians “to continue on the democratic path”, and underlined the “widespread international support” for transparent and inclusive elections throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in East Jerusalem. 

Giving people the chance to vote would renew the “legitimacy and credibility” of Palestinian institutions and help to re-establish Palestinian national unity, he said.  

“This will also set the path toward meaningful negotiations to end the occupation and realize a two-state solution based on UN resolutions, international law and previous agreements”, added the UN official. 

Moreover, setting a new and timely date for elections would be “an important step” in reassuring the Palestinian people that “their voices will be heard”.

Mr. Wennesland called on all parties to maintain calm, show restraint and refrain from violence and encouraged leaders on all sides to “reduce tensions and create the conditions for a resumption of the electoral process”.

“The successful completion of inclusive Palestinian elections is a critical step toward renewing democratic legitimacy of the Palestinian Government”, he said, speaking from Jerusalem.

“These elections should also pave the way to uniting Gaza and the West Bank under a single, legitimate national authority, which would be an important step towards reconciliation and could advance Middle East peace.” [IDN-InDepthNews – 01 May 2021]

Photo: Young man waves the flag of Palestine. Credit: Unsplash/Ahmed Abu Hameeda

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