In its weekly session held on 08 February 2010, the Cabinet of the
Palestinian Government in Ramallah called for elections in all local councils
in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip on 17 July 2010. The Cabinet requested the Central Elections
Commission (CEC) to start necessary preparations for organizing the elections. 

 

On 09 February 2010, Minister of Local Government in Ramallah, Dr. Khaled
al-Qawasmi, stated that the Ministry, in cooperation with the CEC, initiated
preparations to hold elections in local councils on 17 July 2010, in application of
the Cabinet’s decision. He added that
the elections would be organized in accordance with Local Councils Elections Law No. (10) of 2005, in 335 local councils, including 107 municipalities in
the West Bank and 25 ones in the Gaza Strip and rural councils that meet electoral
conditions.

 

Following the Cabinet’s decision, on 11 February 2010, the CEC met with
representatives of political parties and factions to stress the CEC’s
commitment to a successful electoral process, and stated its adherence to the
principles of integrity and free participation for everyone. The CEC reported on its web site that no
representatives of Hamas attended the meeting, despite an invitation from the
CEC.

 

On 13 February 2010, the CEC issued a media release, in which it stated
that "in compliance with Palestinian law and the Cabinet’s decision issued
on 8 February calling for elections in the local councils on 17 July, the CEC
confirms its readiness to administer elections." The CEC also called on all political parties,
factions and other electoral stakeholders to cooperate with the Commission to
ensure free and fair elections, stressing that the Voter Registry Update would
begin within the next three weeks.

 

Over the past days, and since the declaration of the aforementioned
Cabinet’s decision, PCHR has conducted serious and deep discussions on its
implications and consequences. In
conclusion of these discussions, while PCHR reiterates its full support for
elections in principle and the need to hold both general and local elections,
it notes the following:

 

1) According to Article
4(1) of Local Councils Elections Law No.
(10) of 2005 – on which the Cabinet’s decision is based – "
 Local elections shall be held in all
local councils on the same day, once every four years upon a decision issued by
the Cabinet
." The CEC, according to Article 5, "may request the postponement of
the elections in one or more local councils for a period not exceeding four weeks
for technical needs and elections integrity purposes" and "the
postponement decision shall be issued by the Cabinet."

2) The Cabinet’s call for
local elections in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in July 2010 is unrealistic
and impractical given the ongoing division in the Palestinian arena. The boycott of Hamas’ representatives to the
meeting of political parties and factions indicates that the Palestinian
Government in Gaza is not expected to accept holding local elections in Gaza
based on a decision taken by the Government in Ramallah. Subsequently, the decision taken by the
Cabinet in Ramallah, if implemented, will be effectively applied to local
councils in the West Bank only, and no elections will be held at the same time
in the Gaza Strip; a fact which the Government in Ramallah realizes. 

3) It is impossible to
hold transparent and impartial elections that reflect the electorate’s will
without providing appropriate conditions and freeing public liberties, which
means stopping human rights violations, including stopping political arrests;
respecting the right to freedom of opinion and expression and the right to
freedom of association; and ensuring free political activities for all
political parties and factions. These
conditions are not available now in the Palestinian arena under the ongoing
political division, which has caused unprecedented deterioration in the human
rights situation in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

4) PCHR absolutely rejects
holding elections in local council, or any other elections, whose results are
known in advance. Under the current
situation, the results of such elections and the identities of winning
political parties are known even before holding such elections. 

5) Under the current
atmosphere of division, which has been reinforced over the past years,
including actions and reactions between the two parties of the conflict in Gaza
and Ramallah, it is not unforeseen that the Government in Gaza may call for
similar elections in the Gaza Strip, whose results would be known in
advance. 

6) PCHR in concerned that
organizing elections without a national consensus may have negative
consequences and reinforce division. 

7) The decision to call
for elections without the availability of appropriate conditions to ensure their
transparency and impartiality raises doubts concerning the motives and
objectives of such elections. If
democracy is the sought goal, it is imperative first to create an appropriate
atmosphere to organize general elections too, as the constitutionally due dates
for presidential and legislative elections have passed without any efforts
being made to create an appropriate atmosphere to organize them. 

8) Insistence on holding
local elections without creating an appropriate atmosphere to ensure their
transparency and impartiality is unacceptable, and civil society organizations
should reject it, especially through abstaining from participating in the
observation of such elections in order not legitimize them.