Fourteen different Palestinian factions on Tuesday signed an agreement to abide by an electoral “honor code” in the upcoming Palestinian elections, following negotiations in Cairo.
“We are keen on conducting the electoral process in all its stages with transparency and integrity,” the Palestinian factions said in a statement.
The Palestinian factions, which included the rival Fatah and Hamas movements, pledged not to incite “religious, sectarian, tribal, regional, familial or racial sentiments” and to refrain from violent intimidation.
The agreement, as circulated in Palestinian media, also contained a clause forbidding open displays of weaponry at rallies. Gunmen can occasionally be seen at Palestinian political gatherings, as many of the main parties have armed wings.
“An agreement was reached on everything that could constitute an obstacle to the electoral process,” senior Palestinian official Ahmad al-Majdalani said in a statement on Tuesday night.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas issued a decree in mid-January ordering three successive rounds of Palestinian national elections. Nonetheless, observers remain skeptical that the Palestinian vote will come to pass, as fear and mistrust between rival Palestinian factions have torpedoed several previous election pushes.
Hamas, an Islamist terror group, and Abbas’s Fatah movement agreed in a previous round of talks in the Egyptian capital in mid-February on an outline of the “mechanisms” under which the elections would be held.
Since a bloody 2007 civil war between Fatah and Hamas, the former has controlled the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, while the latter has ruled the Gaza Strip. The division in Palestinian politics has hardened over the past decade and a half, with separate police forces, judiciaries, and government institutions developing in both areas.
The various factions also agreed on some of the technical questions surrounding how the elections will be held. One of the thorniest issues has been whose police will supervise the vote in the West Bank and Gaza, as neither side views the other faction’s security forces as legitimate.
In a separate document signed on Tuesday, Palestinian officials charged the two security forces in Gaza and in the West Bank with drafting a mechanism to coordinate during the elections. They instructed the PA West Bank judiciary to conclude a similar agreement with Hamas’ Gaza justice system to resolve election disputes.
The faction also agreed that released Palestinian prisoners working in PA government institutions would be exempt from a clause forcing officials to resign government jobs before running for parliament.
Abbas’s mid-January decree set the parliamentary and presidential votes for May 22 and July 31, respectively. If held, they will be the first elections since the 2006 legislative vote, which saw Fatah lose to Hamas in a landslide.
Abbas has vowed to hold elections several times since his four-year term ostensibly expired in 2009.
Repeated attempts to hold votes for president and parliament have flopped, largely due to the mistrust between Fatah and Hamas, and their inability to agree on terms.