Hamas bans polls in Gaza Strip, jeopardises Abbas’ plans
Jerusalem: The Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, has imposed a ban on elections in the coastal strip, raising serious doubts on Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' ability to hold Parliamentary and Presidential Elections.
Hamas had vanquished PA loyal forces in a violent battle in June 2007. Now, it has announced that it will not allow the Central Elections Committee (CEC) to conduct elections in the coastal territory and also threatened those who would cooperate with it.
The faction's decision to ban vote in the Gaza Strip has raised serious doubts regarding Abbas' ability to hold Parliamentary and Presidential Elections across the Palestinian territories on January 24, 2010 as per a decree issued by him last week.
Hamas and other militant Palestinian factions have also declared their intention to boycott the vote, leaving Western backed Abbas' Fatah faction alone in the race, which will raise questions on the legitimacy of the process.
Its spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said that the elections committee, which was entrusted earlier this week by Abbas to start preparing for the elections, was an "illegal body" that was established on the basis of an "unconstitutional" decision.
The committee was established in violation of "understandings" reached between Hamas and Fatah through Egyptian mediators in recent weeks, Abu Zuhri said.
The spokesman asserted that the committee was supposed to be established in consultation between the two factions as per earlier understandings.
Hamas has said that it will not allow the committee to operate in the Gaza Strip and take necessary measures to enforce the ban, with the faction led Interior Ministry threatening to punish any Palestinian who participates in the elections or helps the committee in the Gaza Strip.
The Ministry said that Hamas was opposed to holding any elections before a "reconciliation" agreement was reached with Fatah, stressing that Abbas did not have the authority to issue a "presidential decree" calling for new elections.
The Islamist faction has refused to accept Abbas' authority saying that his term ended in January 2009.
The PA President seems to even lack support within his Fatah faction with hugely popular leader, Marwan Barghouti, serving five life sentences in an Israeli jail, also expressing opposition to holding elections before ending power struggle between the two dominant factions.
In a message from his prison cell, Barghouti said that it was inconceivable that the elections would take place before the two parties signed an agreement to end their differences.
He urged Hamas to sign the Egyptian-brokered "reconciliation" accord as soon as possible so as to pave the way for holding the elections on time.
However, the young leader expressed support for Abbas' decision to call new elections as required by the PA Basic Law.