Hamas Opens Gaza Election Office

The PLO has threatened to cancel elections in May, but Hamas is still opening the Gaza election office.

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Gabe Kahn.,

Gaza City
Gaza City
Wikimedia Commons

Officials in Gaza said the local headquarters of the Central Elections Commission reopened on Tuesday and will start work Wednesday.

According to the Maan News Agency, CEC director Jamil Khalidi received keys for the Gaza City office a day after the commission's chairman Hanna Nasir lamented its closure. Nasir said Monday that the Hamas-led government had failed to reopen the elections offices despite pledging to do so two weeks earlier.

Fatah and Hamas agreed to hold elections within a year in their reconciliation agreement signed in Cairo in May 2011.

However, last week officials in Ramallah said the May elections would likely be cancelled due to the deadlock in the reconciliation process between the rival Fatah and Hamas factions. "If the status quo remains between Fatah and Hamas regarding the reconciliation standstill, the PNA will cancel the elections," an unnamed official in Ramallah said on Monday.

“Hamas was forced into unity talks with Fatah after the Arab Spring conditions changed regional realities. Hamas has no real intention for reconciliation,” the official added.

An interim government of technocrats to oversee preparations for the vote has not materialized and the two factions continue to blame one another for the failure of the reconciliation process.

Fatah leader and PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas met with Hamas chief Khalid Mashaal in Cairo in November to try and revive the stalled process of reconciliation to much fanfare and little avail.

A much ballyhooed announcement by the two sides that Hamas would be inducted into the PLO has thus far failed to bear fruit.

Abbas' term as PA chairman ended two years ago, but he has refused to hold new elections. With Hamas surging in the polls, analysts say, Fatah might lose control of its enclaves in Judea and Samaria. Nor does Abbas, who has pledged not to run again, want a situation in which his successor does not come from his own party.

Regional observers say Hamas' decision to open the elections office in Gaza is likely intended to position itself as the innocent party should the PLO decide to cancel elections.

Such a cancellation, they say, would be a clear sign that the reconciliation process thrust on the factions by the popular will of their constituents had resulted in abject failure.