Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said he was considering holding elections for the presidency and the Palestinian parliament in the “as soon as possible,” amid reports that he would reverse his long-time stance and run again.
In a speech in Ramallah Saturday, Abbas stressed the importance of “unity” among the Palestinians, and said new elections “for the presidency and the legislative authorities” were an essential element.
An Israel TV report on Friday said Abbas believes the timing is right for elections now, because Hamas is relatively weak, especially since the demise of the Muslim Brotherhood-led presidency of Muhammad Morsi in Egypt, while the Abbas-led PA has secured the releases of Palestinian prisoners from Israel as it moves ahead with peace negotiations.
Senior Fatah officials were currently preparing the logistics for elections, the Channel 2 report said.
Abbas intends to call elections in the West Bank, and require that Hamas enable elections in the Gaza Strip as well. If Hamas fails to do so, Abbas could declare Gaza a rogue entity, and might suspend the transfer of PA funding to the Strip, the TV report said.
Although Abbas has frequently threatened to step down as PA chief, and indicated he would not seek another term as president, he is now ready to run again, the report said.
Abbas, 78, succeeded Yasser Arafat as PA chief. He was elected in January 2005 for what was supposed to be a four-year term, but has held power without further elections ever since. Palestinian parliamentary elections were held in 2006, with Hamas winning 74 of the 132 seats. The Islamist group violently ousted Abbas’s Fatah from Gaza a year later.
Abbas told a group of Israeli MKs last week that, if offered a just agreement, the PA would agree to a final end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and “will not demand in the future to return to Jaffa, Acre or Haifa.”
The statement appeared to signal a disavowal of the long-held Palestinian demand for a right of return to Israel for refugees of the 1948 war and their descendants. Abbas expressed similar sentiments in an interview with Channel 2 in November. He later played down those comments.
“The Palestinian people are ready for and want peace,” Abbas told the delegation of MKs from Meretz on Thursday.