Elections can’t fix the Palestinian Authority.


When President Mahmoud Abbas announced last month that the Palestinian Authority will be holding national elections for the first time in nearly 15 years, it reignited much debate over whether such elections could indeed be meaningful. Given the context of a fragmented Palestinian political body operating under a military occupation, what purpose would elections serve?

On the one hand, the decision to hold legislative and presidential elections, scheduled for May 22 and July 31 respectively, are finally addressing a longstanding criticism that the PA has been ignoring the Palestinian public will for far too long. Its leaders, who largely hail from the Fatah party, effectively overturned the results of the 2006 legislative elections through a violent conflict with Hamas, and have since overstayed their positions in power — especially Mahmoud Abbas, who is now a decade past his first term as president.

An opportunity to end this status quo at the ballot box has thus been welcomed by many — and for some, there are encouraging signs. During a meeting in Cairo this month, leaders of 14 Palestinian political parties, including Fatah and Hamas, committed to participating in and respecting the election results. If everything goes smoothly, observers argue, the elections could finally bring democratic governance to the Palestinian political system, and end the 14-year division between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

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