Election committee to start Gaza work this week

AFP , Sunday 27 May 2012

Palestinian commission begins elections preparations in Gaza strip, a step followed Fatah and Hamas movements agreement in Cairo in forming a new government

Palestinian election officials will begin work on updating the electoral register in the Gaza Strip on Monday in a key step to pave the way for elections, an official told AFP on Sunday.

On 20 May, senior Fatah and Hamas officials agreed that the Palestinian electoral commission would start work in Gaza on 27 May and that consultations to forum a new interim "government of independents" would start the same day.

But Jamil Khaldi, head of the Central Elections Commission (CEC) in Gaza, said work would only begin on Monday after the arrival of his West Bank counterpart, Hanna Nasser.

"Nothing will happen today. The CEC delegation led by Hanna Nasser will arrive in Gaza on Monday and we will all have a meeting with (Hamas) prime minister Ismail Haniya. Immediately afterwards, we will start our work," he told AFP.

Discussions over a new government were also expected to start on Sunday, with senior officials from both factions set to meet in Cairo, according to a posting on the Facebook page of top Hamas official Mussa Abu Marzuk late on Saturday.

"A meeting will be held tomorrow, Sunday 27 May, between Fatah and Hamas delegations to start consultations over forming a new government," wrote Abu Marzuk, deputy head of the Hamas politburo.

Fawzi Barhum, a spokesman for Gaza's Hamas rulers, had no immediate information about exactly when the meeting would take place.

Under the terms of a reconciliation deal signed by Hamas and Fatah in Cairo on 3 May, 2011, the two factions were to put together a caretaker cabinet of independent technocrats tasked with preparing for presidential and legislative elections within a year of the signing of the accord.

But the rival factions never managed to agree on the makeup of the interim government, meaning preparations for holding elections have never got off the ground.

The last time the Palestinians held elections was in 2006, and since then, the electoral register in Gaza has not been updated, despite various attempts to do so.

Earlier this month, a new 25-member cabinet took office in the Fatah-run West Bank which said one of its top priorities was preparing for local elections ahead of presidential and parliamentary polls.

The move was denounced by Hamas as a blow to reconciliation efforts, but it also appeared to breathe life into the stalled unity agreement, with both parties announcing plans to make a fresh bid to piece together the long-promised caretaker government.

Several weeks ago, Abbas also amended the electoral law, making it possible for elections to be held at different times in the West Bank and Gaza.

Previously, the law stated that elections must be held simultaneously in both territories.

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