“Palestinian elections delayed by Hamas-Fatah bickering,” reads a headline in The National, the UAE English-language newspaper.
This was predictable. Two months ago I wrote in the Wall Street Journal that “Mr. Abbas, who turns 77 in March, doesn’t really want Palestinian elections in 2012, but his options are poor. His United Nations efforts are now dead, for he has failed in the Security Council and backed off after his “victory” of gaining membership in Unesco served only to bankrupt that organization when the U.S. ended its funding. He cannot find serious negotiations with Israel terribly appealing, for he knows that Hamas and other groups would quickly call every compromise an act of treason. So instead of turning back to the Israelis or the U.N., he is negotiating with Hamas, whom he hates, knowing full well that any agreement may lead to elections that Hamas might win. Logic suggests he will happily see the deal with Hamas break down (as the “Mecca Agreement” between Fatah and Hamas did in 2007) so he can postpone the May 4 elections yet again.”
The deal has broken down, and the elections scheduled for May 4 are now indefinitely postponed. The Central Elections Commission told The National that it “cannot stage the election primarily because Hamas will not allow it to make the necessary preparations in Gaza, such as updating the voting registry and installing voting centres. Hamas’s resistance to elections is understandable, for polls suggest it would lose. But this situation is increasingly embarrassing for the Palestinians, who have not held a parliamentary or presidential election since 2006–while the “Arab Spring” is bringing elections to several former dictatorships. President Abbas is in the seventh year of his four year term. Just as the advance of electoral democracy in 2005 (when Abbas was chosen as president after Arafat’s death, in a free election) advanced the cause of Palestinian statehood, the inability to hold an election or form a government must raise questions about moving toward Palestinian statehood. Who would govern this entity? This is one of the many reasons that peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians are way off the front burner now–for the Palestinians, Israelis, and the Obama Administration.