A public policy meeting was held by MIFTAH with representatives from the local government and justice ministries, the PLC, political factions, the CEC and civil society on January 23, 2017, in partnership with the Program for Empowering Women in Decision-Making in the Middle East, implemented by GIZ under mandate from BMZ and through its project "Enhancing Gender Equality and promote Women Participation in local Governance in West Bank including east Jerusalem and Gaza Strip". The participants called on the Cabinet to give priority to holding elections in the West Bank (including Jerusalem) and the Gaza Strip by mid-May, thereby implementing Cabinet decision, 17/121/07 of 2016. In one of their more pressing recommendations, they pointed to the decision to hold concomitant elections according to the old law. The participants also stressed on the need to continue social dialogue after the end of the next election cycle in order to make the necessary amendments to the elections’ law and resolve the pending issues pertaining to the recommendations put forth by various parties. In particular, this is referring to the increase in women’s representation by at least 30%, lowering the candidacy age for youths to 21 and developing the electoral system in addition to sending a letter to Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah in this regard. A delegation of civil society institutions will meet with the Prime Minister at a later stage to discuss these demands.
The participants suggested that there should be no discussions over proposed amendments to the law right now in order to guarantee that there are no new obstacles to holding local council elections on time. In tandem, they reiterated their opposition to holding elections in stages or holding them in some areas while postponing them in others, saying this was in contravention with the election law. This, they assured, would provide a solid guarantee for holding elections on time. The participants also called for popular pressure on Hamas to hold elections after ending the division. They said it was imperative that Hamas support the decision to form a court for elections issues so that these issues would not stand as obstacles to holding elections. The participants furthermore reiterated the right of citizens to choose their representatives through democratic process.
As for the position of the Local Government Ministry regarding the elections, its representative confirmed the official stance, which was taken to the Cabinet, calling for a decision to set a date for the next election cycle, including the establishment of an elections court. The ministry representative also stressed on the need to continue social dialogue after the elections are conducted to complete the amendments being called for by civil society institutions in addition to MIFTAH’s recommendations regarding the proposed amendments.