Abbas Defies Opposition: Will Hold Elections

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RAMALLAH -- Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is pressing ahead with his plan to hold January elections in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem, despite strong opposition from Hamas and other Palestinian groups.

Abbas has directed the committee chairman for Palestinian elections to prepare a vote for president and parliament on January 24, according to Jerusalem Post reporter Khaled Abu Toameh.

Toameh cites political analysts in the West Bank and Gaza who believe Abbas will fail in the attempt to schedule elections because Hamas will boycott them in the West Bank and will block them from taking place in the Gaza Strip, which Hamas controls.

Hamas and Abbas's Fatah party have failed to reconcile after repeated attempts by outside parties, including Egypt and Saudi Arabia, to get them to unite. The Palestinian factional divisions are among the most serious and underreported obstacles to progress in peace negotiations. Israeli leaders have asked how the Palestinians can be responsible for a state when they can't agree to peacefully govern together.

Hamas claims Abbas doesn't have the authority to call elections because his term of office expired 9 months ago.

Salah Bardaweel, a Hamas leader from Gaza, said, "He (Abbas) has violated the Palestinian consitution twice: first when he stayed in power after the expiration of his term of office, and second when he called new elections."

Bardaweel also said Abbas is "on his way to becoming Governor of the West Bank," suggesting that he has no support in the Gaza Strip.

Yasser Abed Rabbo, an unofficial spokesman for Abbas cautioned Hamas against preventing the elections to go forward in Gaza. "The Gaza Strip belongs to its people and not to the Hamas gang," Rabbo said. "The people alone will decide whether to take part."

Source: The Jerusalem Post

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