In the midst of general election preparations, the Palestinian factions involved pledged the opening of an elections court that will provide monitoring of the electoral processes and the outcome of the elections, and address any election-related disputes that arise, including with regards to individual cases. Al Mezan calls for the swift opening of this “Electoral Cases Court,” as it was named, in order to ensure the integrity of the electoral process and a means of resolution in disputed cases.
As background, on 25 January 2021, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas issued a decree calling for the first parliamentary and presidential elections to be held in almost 16 years, for 22 May 2021 and 31 July 2021 respectively. The Central Elections Commission (the Commission) was then established to administer and supervise the electoral process. Accordingly, and against the backdrop of the pandemic and related restrictions, the Commission launched a web portal to register voters online. Between 10-16 February, in-person registration was also permitted in some local offices for those unable to access the online portal.
Per the electoral process schedule, the preliminary list of approved voters will be published between 1 and 3 March 2021. The Commission will then examine any challenges to the preliminary list of approved voters. The Commission’s decisions can be appealed before the elections court between 8 and 10 March.
Earlier in February, Palestinian political factions convened in the Egyptian capital Cairo to settle the outstanding issues impeding national unity and to discuss plans for the elections. In a joint statement at the end of the two-day summit, the factions stated that they had reached a number of agreements, including to form the elections court under a presidential decree and based on a national consensus among judges from Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip. The statement further said that “the court shall be exclusively responsible, not any other judicial body, for monitoring all matters related to the electoral process, its results and the impeded cases relating to it.”
Following the Egypt-hosted talks, on 20 February 2021, President Abbas issued a decree calling for the promotion and respect of public freedoms in the run-up to the elections, as declared in the joint statement.
As the end of the legal period to challenge the Commission’s decisions on voter registration approaches, Al Mezan urges President Abbas to swiftly issue a decree calling for the establishment of a consensus-based electoral tribunal, a needed step to ensure the integrity of the electoral process and to determine the results of the elections.
Al Mezan also notes that the high percentage of voter registration—which has reached 93 percent—reflects the Palestinian people’s aspirations for democracy, notably after 14 years of devastating political divide. The Palestinian factions bear the responsibility to meet these aspirations by moving the electoral process forward, fairly and transparently.