Palestinian officials warn May vote impossible


It is “impossible” for the Palestinians to hold presidential and legislative elections in May as planned, a senior Palestinian MP warned on Monday.

Mustafa Barghuti, who heads the Freedom Committee set up to help implement a reconciliation deal between rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas, said the preparations necessary for holding a vote in May had not been made.

“According to the Palestinian Central Elections Commission (CEC), it has become impossible to hold the elections this May, and we will have to work fast to hold the elections this year,” Barghuti told AFP.

“This requires the commission to begin its work in Gaza,” he said.

Under the terms of the reconciliation deal inked by Hamas and Fatah in Cairo on May 3, presidential and legislative elections are to be held within a year of the signing of the accord.

But the last Palestinian elections were held in 2006, and the electoral register in Gaza has not been updated since, with the CEC yet to begin work in the territory, which is under Hamas control.

CEC head Hanna Nasser confirmed the commission had not yet been able to start work in Gaza, in a statement released on Monday.

“Hanna Nasser confirmed today the continuation of the closure of CEC headquarters in the Gaza Strip despite a statement issued two weeks ago indicating the re-opening of district offices,” it said.

“Nasser indicated that recent communication with officials in Gaza resulted in a promise to tackle this issue soon.”

The commission's failure to begin preparations for the scheduled elections comes as Hamas and Fatah struggle to make progress towards the formation of the interim government of independents called for by the reconciliation deal.

Under the accord, a caretaker government was to have been formed to help oversee preparations for the elections, but disagreements over its make-up and who would head it have yet to be resolved.

Barghuti said it was crucial that progress be made towards forming the interim government.

“Discussions on forming the government haven't started yet, giving the impression that the deadlines don't matter,” he warned.

“We must work quickly to implement what was agreed upon, including the formation of the consensus government.”