The Hamas-run government in the Gaza Strip has suspended the work of the Palestinian Central Elections Commission on Monday, a day before it was to start registering new voters. The move abruptly halts one of the few tangible steps Hamas has made toward reconciliation with its rival Fatah party, based in the West Bank.
Hamas officials have said they are temporarily halting the work of the commission for several reasons, among them what it cited as the unfair treatment of Hamas supporters in the West Bank, where the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority led by President Mahmoud Abbas holds sway.
Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza, said in a statement that large numbers of its supporters could not register as new voters in the West Bank “due to the repression” and that Hamas representatives could not supervise registration there.
The move pushes off the prospect of presidential and parliamentary elections. Though considered long overdue, no date had been set for them.
A Fatah spokesman, Fayez Abu Aita, said that the suspension of the work of the election commission was surprising and constituted “a suspension of the reconciliation process.” In a statement issued in Ramallah, in the West Bank, Abu Aita rejected Hamas’s assertions and said that the registration of voters in the West Bank had not stopped.
In other news, recent days have seen a forceful crackdown by Palestinian Security Forces against demonstrations in Ramallah. Several hundred Palestinian youths staged a demonstration in Ramallah’s central Manara Square Sunday evening to protest a planned visit by Israeli vice premier Shaul Mofaz to Abbas and against violence by Palestinian security forces at a similar demonstration the day before.
The PA is conducting what is broadly described in the official Palestinian media as a crackdown on criminal activity and corruption in Jenin and Hebron. However, the Palestinian blogosphere has presented this as an attempt to silence political criticism. The sense on the ground confirms a concern that has been aired repeatedly in recent years that the political and economic echelons in Ramallah are increasingly out of touch with the daily concerns of many Palestinians.