Palestinian Elections Postponed Indefinitely
Palestinian Elections Postponed Indefinitely

Palestinian elections, originally set for early next year, will not take place on schedule.

The elections were postponed because of divisions between rival Palestinian factions: the Fatah movement that controls the West Bank and the Islamic militant group Hamas that rules the Gaza Strip.

Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah had ordered the Central Election Commission to conduct national elections on schedule in January. But commission chairman Hanna Nasser blamed Hamas for refusing to cooperate and forcing the postponement.

"We have found there are obstacles in certain areas. We have made contacts with Hamas in Gaza, [but] we have found that this is not a possibility," he said.

Nasser said Hamas would not allow the elections to take place in Gaza.

"And therefore, since elections are expected to be executed in all parts of the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem, we have therefore taken a decision that the CEC cannot at present execute the decree of the President," he said.

Hamas ousted President Abbas and his Fatah forces from Gaza during the Palestinian civil war two years ago and does not recognize his rule in the West Bank. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri says the call for elections was illegitimate.

Abu Zuhri said postponing the elections was the right decision because there is not a positive atmosphere for the vote.

President Abbas had threatened not to run in the elections because of the deadlocked peace process with Israel, but now it appears that he will remain in office. That is a relief to Israel, the West and Arab states which see Mr. Abbas as a moderate alternative to Hamas.

But the deep internal divisions among the Palestinians pose a major obstacle to U.S.-sponsored efforts to achieve a peace agreement. Israel and the international community shun Hamas because it refuses to renounce violence and recognize the Jewish state. Israeli, western and Arab leaders admit that until the Palestinian factions reconcile, it will be impossible to achieve the stated goal of the peace process-a viable Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.