MIFTAH
Thursday, 28 October. 2021
 
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Ramallah – 28-9-2021 – Upon invitation by civil society organizations (CSOs), MIFTAH recently held an emergency session for several institutions and representatives of national parties and factions to discuss local elections following the September 6 Cabinet decision in this regard. The decision calls for holding local council elections in two stages: the first will begin on 11/12/2021 in 387 town and village councils, including 377 in the West Bank and the second phase, including (A) and (B) categorized local councils, to be held on March 26, 2022.

Civil society institutions voiced their rejection of dividing elections into two stages, maintaining there is no real technical reason for this. Rather, they said, the decision was based on unclear and unspecified phrases such as the ‘national interest” and the coronavirus pandemic. The representatives said they considered this decision to be for purely political motives.

In this context, the representatives said the first stage of local council elections in 387 town and village councils classified as [C] are mostly conducted by acclamation or appointment of committees by the Ministry of Local Government, which curtails the democratic right of voters to choose their representatives. They also said civil society demands were not taken into consideration, demands which were extensively discussed in past years over certain amendments such as: the lowering of the candidacy age, raising the women’s quota and cancelling the threshold, which would pave the way for increased participation of women and youth in the electoral process.

The participants confirmed that holding split elections was a form of political corruption, which CSOs reject. They also said this pointed to the executive authority’s misuse of the Local Elections Law and its amendments: according to Article 2 of the 2012 law by decree regarding amendments to the Local Council Elections Law, No. 19 of 2005, which is the amended law, No. 12 of 2005, stipulates the following: Article 4 of the original law shall be cancelled and replaced with the following text: 1. Elections shall be held in all local councils on one day every four years upon a decision by the Cabinet; 2. In the case local council elections are not held in accordance with Paragraph 1, the Cabinet may issue a decision to hold elections in stages as necessitated by the public interest. Hence, the decision on how elections will be held has been appropriated from the Central Elections Commission (CEC) as the independent party authorized by the Cabinet and places the application of the law and its interpretations in the hands of a non-independent political party.

Party representatives also briefed CSOs on their position regarding the elections, saying they considered them an important entryway to a comprehensive reform of the Palestinian political system on the one hand, a break in the current state of singular decision-making and an expansion of the frameworks for partnership of political and social forces in administrating public affairs, on the other. They maintained that factions cannot allow space for more singularity and possession of power by holding local elections, even if in stages.

The party representatives indicated they were open to options for holding elections in stages but reiterated their support for the position of CSOs in demanding a postponement of elections until they can be held in one day.

The meeting concluded with an agreement to continue coordination with the political parties and to continue pressuring the government to issue a decision to hold one-time local council elections in accordance with the law. They also called for avoiding the political challenges that hinder elections in the Gaza Strip or prevent CSOs from assuming their oversight role on these elections.

 
 
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