Despite international support, obstacles threaten Palestinian elections

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Palestinian members of Central Elections Commission register voters for the upcoming elections, on Feb. 10, 2021 in Gaza City. (photo: Mahmud Hams / AFP via Getty Images)
The Palestinian legislative elections face disputes and hurdles that could prevent the vote from being held.

By Ahmad Melhem | Al-Monitor | Feb 28, 2021

“I believe that the odds of holding the elections do not exceed 50% due to the many obstacles.”
— Ghassan al-Khatib, former Palestinian planning minister

RAMALLAH, West Bank — It remains unclear whether or not the Palestinian legislative elections, scheduled for May 22, will be held in the Palestinian territories in line with the decree President Mahmoud Abbas issued Jan. 15. Doubts about the success of the elections persist within large population segments.

At the operational level, the Central Elections Commission — an independent commission tasked with organizing and monitoring the elections that was set up by a decree issued by President Yasser Arafat in 2002 — is carrying on with the preparation phases for the electoral process. Phase 1, which consisted of the voter registration process, ended Feb. 17. The commission indicated in a press statement that the total number of voters registered reached nearly 2.622 million, or 93% of the 2.809 million eligible voters, according to the Palestine Central Bureau of Statistics. The three-day Phase 2, which includes claims and objections, begins March 1.

Electoral register tampering

A few hours before Phase 1 ended, reports about tampering with the electoral register — which includes the names and addresses of the registered voters — emerged, namely in the city of Hebron in the south of the West Bank. Unidentified people tampered with the electoral information of about 300 citizens by replacing the polling stations assigned to them with new ones located far from their areas of residence. These voters are Hamas supporters. The Central Elections Commission then dealt with the issue.

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