Seminar on Local and Legislative Elections in Occupied Palestine
On March 16, 2022, the Global Rights Watch organised a seminar on the Palestinian elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip with the participation of experts, media professionals, and political activists. They discussed the local electoral process, in which the first round took place on December 11, 2021, in 376 villages, most of which are rural local authorities in the West Bank.
The second round will be held on March 26, 2022, and includes 102 local bodies in the West Bank. Hamas had refrained from organising these elections in the Gaza Strip, as it demands holding national legislative and presidential elections first.
Last April, Palestinian factions strongly condemned the decision of President Mahmoud Abbas to postpone the legislative and presidential elections, which have not been on hold for 15 years, while municipal elections were also boycotted by Hamas, in 2017.
In his speech, Mr. Aref Jafal, Director of the Arab Center for Democracy and Elections, said that the “family” overshadowed the electoral process and won other parties.
He added that the Fatah movement won 28 local bodies out of the 75 councils under the name of the “Building and Liberation” block out of 153 councils. He also pointed out to the high rate of participation, which indicates the need of the people to practice democracy in light of the abolition of legislative elections.
He pointed out that Hamas participated in the elections through its supporters, thus there was no actual boycott.
Mr. Jafal talked about the dispute between Fatah and Hamas that prevailed for several reasons, most notably that the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah continued to work according to the broad lines of the Oslo principles aimed at establishing two states, however, a large majority of the Palestinians, including Hamas, no longer believed that this can be achieved.
In his speech, the journalist,Mr. Samer Khuwayra said that young people suffer from many issued including social and political problems, however, the participation of young people was great at the level of candidacy and voting, despite the challenges of participation, or the lack of political vision.
He added that many young people did not seem enthusiastic about participating, due to the economic situation, as well as the frustration caused by the internal political division since 2007, and its repercussions.
He said that holding the elections does not mean the end of the division, but it is the beginning of resolving all points of disagreement between the two parties (Fatah and Hamas), stressing that “if the elections were held, it wouldn’t be part of the democratic process, because it was not preceded by reforms in the West Bank and Gaza.
Mr. Farid Tamalla, spokesman for the Palestinian Central Elections Committee, spoke about local and international monitoring bodies; how they are selected, how they work, and their role to ensure the transparency and integrity of the electoral process.
Civil society institutions formed local monitoring teams to be distributed to all stations inside the polling stations, thus monitoring opens an important opportunity for young people to engage in political life, and to have an active role in this democratic process.
He said that local oversight bodies must be non-profit civil organisations, that are not linked financially, administratively or organisationally to any political party, electoral list or candidate for elections, and that the local oversight body be competent to promote democracy, good governance and human rights.
Mr. Tamalla also stressed the importance of women’s participation in the electoral process at all stages, noting that “the percentage of women in the lists submitted to the Central Elections Committee amounted to 20%, which is lower than t the previous elections.”
He pointed out that there is no development regarding women’s participation in running for elections, unlike young candidates on the lists, which was good, as the participation rate of those under the age of 40 reached 47%, while the percentage of women’s participation remained the same.
- Working to resolve the disagreement between Fatah and Hamas, and to carry out reforms in the West Bank and Gaza, at the level of individuals and groups.
- Encouraging the youth group to participate in the electoral process and working on raising the awareness of the youth and unifying their identity with a single bloc that represents them.
- Activating the media role and cooperating with civil society institutions entrusted with defending human rights, highlighting the right of citizens to participate in the political decision and holding the elections under any circumstances.