Hamas demands new Palestinian election system
Published November 19th 2004 in Haaretz International

Hamas is demanding changes to the election system employed by the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the 1996 elections to the Palestinian Legislative Council (the parliament).

Palestinian sources reported yesterday that Hamas representatives who met repeatedly over the past few days with Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) presented him with several demands regarding the elections. Among other things, Hamas wants elections held simultaneously for PA chairman, the parliament, and local authorities.

However, since it became clear that Abu Mazen's position is that it cannot be done, technically speaking, and that parliamentary elections will be held in the middle of next year, the Hamas representatives have been focusing their demands on changing the regional election system used in the `96 elections, in which 16 voting districts were established in the West Bank and Gaza, each with a given number of seats. Hamas wants to introduce a system of proportional representation, under which the entire West Bank and Gaza Strip would constitute a single voting precinct.

The Hamas representatives are now seeking to change the system in such a way that the relative strength of the movement in the Gaza Strip, which increased in the course of the intifada, will impact its overall electoral gains.

Five far-left Palestinian organizations, including the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and the People's Party (formerly the communists), announced yesterday that they plan to run an agreed-upon candidate for the post of PA chairman. The leftist groups did not say which candidate they intend to endorse.

Also yesterday, Talal Sidr, one of the founders of Hamas in Hebron who crossed the lines in 1998 to become sports minister in the PA government, announced he will run for office as PA head.

Registration of candidates for the elections, scheduled for January 9, 2005, will begin next week.

Fatah has not yet announced its candidate or the method by which he will be selected, but Abu Mazen will apparently win the nomination.

Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia (Abu Ala) came to the Gaza Strip yesterday and joined Abu Mazen in his marathon of meetings with Fatah officials there to carve out agreements on managing the Strip and on dividing up authority for it among rival Fatah camps.

Also yesterday, the Bush administration said it was talking to Congress about resuming direct U.S. assistance to the Palestinian Authority that he headed.

"It's an idea that is under consideration," the State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli said. "No decision has been made," the U.S. official said in declining to say how much aid the administration intended to give to the Palestinian Authority.

"We are interested in ways that we can help support the Palestinian people and the Palestinian leadership as they try to emerge from the past years of conflict and violence," Ereli said.