Hamas prime minister prepares for elections in Gaza

Ahram Online , Thursday 24 Jan 2013

Ismail Haniya will invite post-reconciliation electoral committee to Gaza to begin updating voter registration lists

Gaza's Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh, left visit a government office destroyed in Israel's recent offensive on Gaza, in Gaza City Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013 (Photo: AP)

Gaza-based Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniya will invite the Central Election Commission (CEC) to the Gaza Strip within the next few days, Salah Al-Bardawil, a leader of the Islamist movement, said on Thursday.

The prime minister will ask the CEC to begin updating voter registration lists, Al-Bardawil told the Palestinian Maan News Agency.

"Hamas has the willingness and persistence to implement all the terms and conditions stipulated in the reconciliation deals signed in Cairo and Doha with Fatah," Bardawil said.

The formation of the committee to supervise elections in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank was stipulated in the deal signed by Fatah and Hamas in Cairo in April 2011.

Hamas Political Bureau member Ezzat Al-Rashak said on Friday that the group had agreed with rival group Fatah to form a cabinet of "independents," during reconciliation talks in Cairo the day before.

According to Egyptian state news agency MENA, Al-Rashak said the long-awaited "unity" cabinet was chiefly assigned the task of organising the next legislative and presidential elections, if held.

"Fatah and Hamas agreed on ending the period of political division. All indicators on the ground signify the complete readiness of both movements to implement the reconciliation deal," he said.

"This is the last opportunity given to us by the Palestinian people to sort out our problems, and we should take advantage of it."

Fatah, the political party of Palestinian President which runs the West Bank, and Hamas, which rules Gaza, agreed on Thursday 17 January to revive their long-stalled reconciliation accord by the end of this month, the head of the Fatah delegation told AFP.

"Fatah and Hamas agreed at a meeting in Cairo on Thursday between delegations of the two movements on a timetable for implementing Palestinian reconciliation," Azzam Al-Ahmad said by telephone from the Egyptian capital.

"We are in agreement on the mechanisms and timetable to end the division, the most important being the resumption of operations by the Central Election Commission (CEC) in the Gaza Strip on the 30th of the month at the latest and afterwards in the West Bank," he said.

The two groups reached an Egyptian-sponsored unity agreement in April 2011, although the deal's main articles have not been applied so far.

In December, leaders of Hamas and Fatah called for the renewal of reconciliation attempts that have been stalled for more than one year.

In Gaza, Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal, in his first-ever trip to the coastal territory, said it was time for the bitter opponents to make good on the deal they signed in Cairo in 2011.

The deal had been intended to pave the way for presidential and legislative elections by May 2012, but disagreements over who would head up a transitional government snarled implementation of the agreement.

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