Palestinians announce first elections in 15 years, on eve of Biden era

Palestinians announce first elections in 15 years, on eve of Biden era

FILE PHOTO: Rival Palestinian factions hold rare joint meeting over Israel-UAE deal
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas attends a virtual meeting with Palestinian factions over Israel and the United Arab Emirates' deal to normalise ties, in Ramallah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank Sep 3, 2020. (Photo: Alaa Badarneh/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo)

RAMALLAH, West Bank: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced parliamentary and presidential elections on Friday (Jan 15), the first in 15 years, in an effort to heal long-standing internal divisions.

The move is widely seen as a response to criticism of the democratic legitimacy of Palestinian political institutions, including Abbas's presidency.

It also comes days before the inauguration of US President-elect Joe Biden, with whom the Palestinians want to reset relations after they reached a low under President Donald Trump.

READ: Palestinians look ahead to 'positive' US role under Biden

According to a decree issued by Abbas's office, the Palestinian Authority, which has limited self-rule in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, will hold legislative elections on May 22 and a presidential vote on Jun 31.

"The President instructed the election committee and all state apparatuses of the state to launch a democratic election process in all cities of the homeland," the decree said, referring to the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.

The Palestinians' last parliamentary ballot in 2006 resulted in a surprise win by Hamas, widening an internal political rift that led to the group's military seizure of the Gaza Strip in 2007.

Palestinian factions have renewed reconciliation efforts after Israel reached diplomatic agreements last year with four Arab countries, accords that dismayed Palestinians and prompted their leaders to try to present a united front. There was no immediate comment from Hamas on Abbas's announcement.

Source: Reuters