The deep split in Palestinian politics has forced recommendations that President Mahmoud Abbas postpones elections in January. The refusal of his bitter rival Hamas to allow the vote in its Gaza stronghold, or even to permit electoral officials to make preparations there, prompted a delay.
“We met today and decided to tell the president, who called the elections, that we cannot hold them at the time he wanted them,” said the Palestinian Electoral Commission chief Hanna Nasir. Any delay would avoid a damaging, possibly permanent, split in the Palestinian movement. Abbas had already declined to stand and his replacement would have no legitimacy in Gaza. “This is only natural because of the absence of proper conditions for an election,” said Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri. “It underlines the credibility of Hamas’ position. We rejected the idea of elections before any overall agreement is reached.” Abbas has spoken of offering a “hand of friendship” to Hamas to bridge the gap between the Islamist group and his secular Fatah faction. Hamas’ reaction was to dismiss that as a “manoeuvre”.