Obama and Abbas
Obama and Abbas Israel news photo: PLO Site

With Mahmoud Abbas illegally usurping the “presidency” of the Palestinian Authority ever since his four-year term expired a year ago, the PA has finally announced that it will hold general elections “by September at the latest.”

The announcement was made Saturday night by Yasser Abed Rabbo, a top Abbas aide.

Hamas, the main rival of the Abbas-led Fatah movement, immediately announced that it would not participate in the election. A spokesman for Iran-backed Hamas, whose charter calls for the destruction of Israel, said the announcement was a “conspiracy against the Palestinian people." He said the elections would be “illegitimate, and that "Hamas will not participate or recognize or give any cover for this election.”

The Hamas refusal is not expected to last for long, if the elections are actually held, as Hamas celebrated when Egypt overthrew Hosni Mubarak and adopted democracy. On the other hand, the Hamas-allied Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt has also announced that it will not take part in elections in Egypt.

Fatah and Hamas have long been at odds, especially after Hamas fought Fatah in 2007 and conquered Gaza. At least 118 people were killed and more than 550 wounded during the week-long battles. Hamas had won the legislative elections the year before, though Abbas retained the title of PA Chairman.

The decision to hold elections is generally seen as an attempt to fall in line with the winds of change blowing throughout the Arab Middle East. The Abbas government is not viewed as particularly popular, and the loss of his Egyptian ally Hosni Mubarak does not help matters. Negotiations with Israel are not expected to move forward in the coming months; in fact, the PA has announced that it will ask the United Nations to unilaterally recognize it as a nation by this coming September.

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