Elections Commission to Start Work in Gaza

Gaza’s government agreed Monday to allow the Central Elections Commission to start work immediately to prepare for a vote.

The chairman of the elections commission Hanna Nasser met Monday with Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh.

"The committee’s work was blessed and we will start working in the next few days in Gaza," Nasser said at a news conference after the meeting.
Gaza’s Foreign Minister Muhammad Awad, who also attended the meeting, said the commission could begin registering voters without delay.

Hamas official Ismail Ashqar said in a statement that the government would appoint a representative to coordinate with the commission.

Hamas’ agreement to let the CEC work in Gaza was a condition set by Fatah leader and President Mahmoud Abbas for starting consultations on forming a unity government.

Nasser said voter registration would take six weeks and Abbas would then decide on a date for presidential and parliamentary elections.

An official involved in the talks told Reuters that Haniyeh and Nasser met to choose members of a technocractic government to oversee the election.

The official who asked not to be identified said: "President Abbas and Hamas chief Khalid Mashaal will meet next week to finalize the formation of the government and hopefully to announce it, should everything go well."

Abbas will lead the new government to try to attract international recognition and funds, and says it will honor international accords, including those with Israel.

"I hope there will be no obstacles, so that we can begin the process of ending the division," Nasser said.

Previous agreements to end five years of hostility that have divided the national movement have failed because of political disputes between Hamas and Fatah.

Since 2007, Hamas has governed the Gaza Strip while the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority has run the West Bank.

They signed a reconciliation treaty last year in Cairo with fanfare, but then failed to implement its terms.

It was not clear whether the new Egyptian-brokered effort would succeed in persuading the two sides to agree on a common political agenda this time. Cairo suggests the new government would have only a domestic mandate, and not a role in peace negotiations with Israel and other international issues.

"The people need to see practical and procedural steps. They have lost faith in statements and in meetings," said Yehya Al-Madhoun, a Gaza university lecturer.

"We hope that the arrival of the election committee in Gaza is the beginning of the these steps before holding an election where all parties will be governed by the ballots," he said.


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