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Hamas says it won’t nominate presidential candidate for Palestinian elections

Remarks by senior official in terror group will likely come as a relief to PA President Abbas, who polls indicate would lose in a head-to-head with Hamas chief Haniyeh

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, right, and then Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas, left, speak as they head the first cabinet meeting of the new coalition government at Abbas' office in Gaza City, March 18, 2007. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra, File)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, right, and then Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas, left, speak as they head the first cabinet meeting of the new coalition government at Abbas' office in Gaza City, March 18, 2007. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra, File)

Hamas will not nominate a presidential candidate in the scheduled Palestinian elections, a senior official in the terror group told Al-Jazeera on Sunday.

Moussa Abu Marzouk’s remarks are likely to come as a relief to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who opinion polls indicate would lose in a head-to-head matchup with Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh.

However, Abbas could still face a challenge from jailed terrorist rival Marwan Barghouti, who polling suggests would also win in a face-off between the two.

Abbas in mid-January issued a decree ordering the first Palestinian national elections in 15 years.

Palestinian faction leaders gather to discuss holding Palestinian national elections, in Cairo on February 8, 2021 (WAFA)

Many observers remain skeptical that elections will actually come to pass this time around, as many promises by Palestinian officials to hold a vote have fallen through before.

The long-running rift between Abbas’s Fatah movement and Hamas has thwarted attempts to hold a national vote since Hamas won the most votes in 2006 legislative elections.

The elections — should they come to pass — will happen in three rounds. First, national legislative elections have been set for May 22, a vote for the Palestinian Authority presidency is set for July 31, and elections for the Palestinian National Council on August 31.

Marzouq’s comments came following a report that the PA has sent a letter to Washington stating that all Palestinian factions — including Hamas — have committed to accepting a Palestinian state within the pre-1967 borders with its capital in East Jerusalem, and to peaceful popular resistance against Israel.

The letter was originally published on Saturday night by the Amad news site — a Cairo-based outlet affiliated with exiled Gaza security chief Mohammad Dahlan. Dahlan, who currently resides in the United Arab Emirates, is widely seen as a bitter rival of Abbas.

It was allegedly sent as part of a reconciliation process between the vying groups ahead of the elections. Hamas, an Islamist terror group which seized control of Gaza in 2007 and avowedly seeks Israel’s destruction, has never publicly withdrawn its commitment to violent resistance against Israel.

Members of Gaza’s Central Elections Commission’s field team register a local woman to the electoral roll, at the main road of Gaza City, February 10, 2021 (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

Palestinian officials who spoke to The Times of Israel have previously emphasized that Hamas’s participation in the Palestinian political process would depend on its acceptance of previous agreements signed between Israel and the Palestinians, in addition to committing to “peaceful popular resistance.”

But even though election plans have continued apace, Hamas has yet to make any such commitments in a public forum.

Ismail Haniyeh, left, smiles as he celebrates with Fatah strongman Mohammed Dahlan in Gaza City on Saturday, March 17, 2007. (AP Photo,File)

The letter was said to be sent by Palestinian Authority Civil Affairs Minister Hussein al-Sheikh to senior US State Department official Hady Amr, who is responsible for the Israel-Palestinian portfolio.

According to the reported letter, Hamas agreed to obey international law and to adhere to a peaceful transfer of power depending on the election results. Hamas reportedly agreed to the program at a meeting of Palestinian faction heads last September.

A spokesperson for the PA Civil Affairs commission did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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