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Palestinian Authority Calls For Elections Amid Egyptian Demonstrations

Benjamin Gottlieb |
February 1, 2011 | 3:53 p.m. PST

Senior News Editor

Netanyahu, Clinton and Abbas (Creative Commons).
Netanyahu, Clinton and Abbas (Creative Commons).

As demonstrations and governmental reform sweep across the Middle East, the Palestinian Authority announced Tuesday that it will “hold local elections as soon as possible” – a move that reflects the PA’s fear of anti-government protests spreading to the West Bank.
The Western-backed PA is the latest Arab government to announce preemtive measures aimed at pacifying regional citizen unrest over stagnant economic and political reforms.

Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad's Cabinet said dates for local elections would be determined during next week’s legislative session.

Although Fayyad said he hopes to hold elections in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, senior Hamas officials denounced the idea, asserting that the PA does not have the right to call for such elections.

The PA – which has not held elections since 2006 – maintains a blemished history with regard to democracy. Last year, PA President Mahmoud Abbas squashed planned elections when it looked like his Fatah party would lose a number of key seats.
Adding to the list of election-related blunders for Fatah, the party endured a decisive loss to Hamas in the 2005 municipal elections, relinquishing control over the Palestinian parliament the following year.

The current parliament’s term expired in 2010 and Abbas’ in 2009.

According to a leak via the Palestine Papers, U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton threatened Palestinian negotiators that any government other than the current Abbas administration would not receive American funds.

“Abu Mazen [Abbas] not running in the election is not an option…there is no alternative to him,” Clinton said in 2009, shortly before the canceled elections.

It's now clear that Arab governments across the Middle East are at risk of losing their favorability and legitimacy. The question of whether the remaining governments of the Middle East - such as the Omani absolute monarchy or the emirate-style government of Qatar - will follow suit is yet to be determined.


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