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Palestinian elections: Abbas set to announce cancellation, reports say

The president is expected on Thursday to cancel parliamentary elections, citing Israel’s democratic restrictions on Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced in January the first parliamentary and presidential elections in 15 years (AFP)

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is expected to announce the cancellation of the 22 May legislative elections, according to multiple sources and media reports.

Abbas is set to call off the election on Thursday, citing Israel’s restrictions on Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem who wish to campaign and cast their votes freely.

On Sunday, amid tensions between Israeli forces and Palestinians in Jerusalem over barricades placed at the Damascus Gate plaza in the Old City, Abbas said that “Jerusalem is a red line.”

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“We affirm that we will not accept in any way the holding of general elections without the presence of Jerusalem and its people in nominations, campaigns and voting according to the signed agreements,” Abbas said during Fatah’s Central Committee on Monday, according to Wafa.

Egyptian officials told the Associated Press on Tuesday that they were briefed on Abbas’s decision to call off the elections during a meeting with Palestinian factions.

On Tuesday, Israel told 13 European countries, including France, Germany and Belgium, that it is not working to thwart the Palestinian parliamentary elections in East Jerusalem. Israel has not made any official statements endorsing the holding of the elections in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

An Israeli official at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs told the EU ambassadors and diplomats that his government made an "informed decision" not to refer to the Palestinian elections, Israel’s Walla news reported.

Election lists protest against cancellation

The Palestinian Authority (PA) did not make a statement to confirm the reports on the president's intention to make an announcement on Thursday. But Hussein al-Sheikh, the PA's Head of the General Authority of Civil Affairs, said on Tuesday that the Israeli government told PA officials that its position regarding holding elections in East Jerusalem "is still negative".

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"What is rumoured by some parties – that the Israeli government has agreed to hold elections, including in East Jerusalem – is false," Sheikh said, according to Wafa.

On Monday, 14 election lists signed and sent a letter to Abbas refusing to accept the postponement or cancellation of the elections, and urged the president to commit to the decision, made in January, to hold the elections.

On Tuesday, candidates from political factions in Gaza protested after reports came of a possible postponement and called on the PA to clarify the issue.

The PA announced in January that it would hold legislative elections in May, and a presidential election in July, followed by an election of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation's national council, which seeks to represent Palestinians outside the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip.

Fatah’s internal power grab has deepened the splits inside the PLO, which is poised to run for election in four independent blocs: the official list headed by Abbas; Nasser al-Qudwa's National Democratic Assembly; Marwan Barghouti, a veteran detainee in Israeli prisons; and Mohammed Dahlan's Democratic Reform Bloc.

Meanwhile, Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip and is Fatah's political rival, has united its ranks and its candidates are running under one list. In the most recent Palestinian parliamentary elections, held in 2006, Hamas won the majority of the seats in a surprise victory against Fatah.