“Let 2022 Be Election Year” PCHR Calls upon Authorities in Gaza to Empower CEC to Hold Local Elections in Gaza Strip
Date: 03 January 2021
Time: 12:15 GMT
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) calls upon the authorities in the Gaza Strip to empower the Central Elections Commission (CEC) to hold the local council elections that are scheduled to be held on 26th of March 2022, within Phase 2 of the local elections. The elections will include the local councils classified as “A” and “B” across all Palestinian governorates, as well as the local councils classified “C” in the Gaza Strip. The election will also include all local councils in the West Bank where elections were not held in Phase 1.
On 11th December 2021, Phase 1 of the local elections were held in 152 “C” local councils in the West Bank. Hamas Movement did not participate. PCHR hoped that the local elections would be held in a single phase in all the local councils in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. It should be noted the no elections were consensually held for the local councils in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip since 2005, as they were exclusively held in the West Bank. Meanwhile, the local councils in Gaza are formed by designation. The last local elections in Gaza was held 17 years ago.
Yesterday, CEC received a response from the Hamas Movement on their position in terms of holding local elections scheduled on 26th of March 2022. In their response, Hamas emphasized that there are some political issues that need to be resolved which as they are necessary for their approval on holding the elections. This includes written guarantees that the elections will be held as scheduled and other resolutions relevant to the Elections Law such as establishing an electoral court and returning the jurisdiction to the First Instance Courts over deciding on the appeals in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
Dr. Hanna Naser, Chairman of the CEC, responded to Hamas by saying that these demands are political and should be sent to the political leadership not CEC since the latter does not have the authority to issue decisions regarding these demands. Nasser said that for the time being, Hamas’ response means that they will not allow the elections in Gaza as time is short and limited to meet these demands.
PCHR considers that all Palestinian parties bear full responsibility for the simultaneous disruption of holding elections to date, in all bodies in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Also, PCHR reminds that the last time that Palestinian parties had agreed to hold local elections was in 2017, but it was set aside due to judicial election disputes and challenging the constitutionality of the Gaza Strip Courts. On 3rd of October 2016, the Supreme Court in Ramallah ordered local elections in the West Bank, but excluded the Gaza Strip.
This dilemma had been resolved after the Palestinian President issued a presidential decree to amend the Local Council Elections Law on the 9th of January 2017. According to this amendment, a special court was established to adjudicate claims and appeals related to decisions taken by the Central Election Commission; similar to such general elections. PCHR considers that establishing this special court, removed the main obstacles of holding local elections and ended the local elections crisis.
Considering the internal situation and legitimate demands for holding general, legislative, and presidential elections, PCHR believes that holding local elections is an important step towards restoring the democratic process, hoping this will be followed by the holding of general elections.
PCHR considers that holding local elections in the Gaza Strip in parallel with that in the West Bank is essential for the revival of democratic process in Palestine, as it may end the Palestinian division. Moreover, PCHR hopes that 2022 will be the year of holding general, legislative, and presidential elections at the same time in all Palestinian authority governorates.
Thus, PCHR calls upon authorities in the Gaza Strip and all political parties to support holding local elections, scheduled to be held in March 2022 within the second phase. This will hopefully include all local bodies that the first phase elections had in the December 2021 election.