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      Abbas Wants Vote to Calm Public, but Is PA Safe for Democracy?

      Abbas announces elections as pressure against Arab regimes spreads. The last time PA Arabs voted, Hamas won but now says it will boycott a vote.
      By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
      First Publish: 2/8/2011, 5:26 PM / Last Update: 2/8/2011, 5:48 PM

      Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has pulled out the “democracy card” and announced new local elections for July 9, but Hamas vowed to boycott any vote, making it virtually illegitimate.

      The proposed election affects municipalities but does not address the issue of Abbas’ position as PA chairman, a post that was supposed to be filled by an election as far back as two years ago.

      The PA is split both physically and politically between Fatah, headed by Abbas and in control of Judea and Samaria Arabs, and Hamas, which threw out Fatah from Gaza in a bloody coup more than three years ago.

      This is not the first time Abbas has suggested municipal elections, but Hamas’ vow to boycott had precluded a vote. Abbas is under pressure from the growing Arab street revolution, which has overthrown the government in Tunisia, caused the ouster of the Jordanian cabinet and threaten the regime of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

      A Hamas spokesperson said that holding municipal elections is illegal, arguing that the Abbas government is unconstitutional.

      Holding elections in July, if they actually take place and Hamas boycotts them, could put the nail in the coffin of a Palestinian Authority that includes Judea, Samaria and Gaza.

      Independent PA legislator Mustafa Barghouti said Abbas’ decision is "a very good step" to help "maintain the seeds of democracy" in the PA. However, the Palestinian Authority’s previous attempt democracy was a flop for the United States, which urged and chaperoned the vote.

      After Hamas won the first and only legislative elections more than four years ago, then U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was shocked to be told by her advisors in the middle of the night that the Hamas terrorist organization won.