Jerusalem Should Be Included in Palestinian Local Elections

Dr. Mustapha al-Barghouti. (Photo: via File)

 By Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi

Municipal elections could be a form of national upliftment to democracy, which is very important during the conditions of decline, and to fight despair and frustration faced by the Palestinian people.

These elections will take place on October 9, 2016, and will be the first elections in the history of the Palestinian people to be held twice. In addition, this has a paramount importance in terms of communicating a democratic tradition and protecting the right of people to choose their representatives, leaders and those who manage their daily affairs.

Moreover, the success of the elections in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip would pave the way for presidential and legislative elections as well as the National Council elections, due to be held six years ago, and to date have still not taken place.

It will be held at the same time to confirm the unity of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, despite the existing division.

The success of the elections could also be an opportunity to pave the road to end divisions and restore unity based on the people’s right to democratically elect a candidate, and for their decision to be respected.

However, the elections have another important purpose which is to foil the attempts to infiltrate those complicit with the occupation in the local councils and to confirm the function of the local councils and their commitment to the rights of the people and the struggle for freedom and independence to end discrimination and the apartheid regime.

In facing the reality of that the Netanyahu government is trying to impose through settlement construction, especially in Jerusalem, the democratic elections could be a way to impose a Palestinian resistance and struggle against this issue.

Elections for the Council of the Secretariat of Arab Jerusalem, the capital of Palestine must be held, as suggested by many intellectuals recently. This should be created as a fact on the ground to counter attempts by the Israeli municipality to claim to represent Jerusalemites, despite their boycott of the elections.

While the occupation would strive to prevent holding elections in Jerusalem, it is possible to agree on a unified list of all the forces and trends, in the presence of influential national democratic figures, whether elected by consensus or by the votes of all participants.

Facts on the grounds should be created in addition to our attempts at the United Nations organizations, through bold, courageous, and innovative decisions.

If Jerusalemites have a secretariat or council for their city, elections should be held at the same date of the municipal elections all over the West Bank and Gaza. That would mark an important political success that confirms the unity of the whole of the Palestinian state, whether the occupiers are agree to it or not.

Within the Palestinian government, there is a minister for Jerusalem Affairs, in addition to the Governor of Jerusalem. Why does Jerusalem not have a municipal council or a General Secretariat to represent the masses, communicate with them, handle their concerns, defend the needs of their struggle, put the needs of Jerusalem on the top of the list of priorities, contribute to the protection of our holy places and our history, and protect our future in the city?

When the presidential and legislative elections were held, we did everything in our power to reach Jerusalem and its people, despite the ban, and the frequent arrests. This was to emphasize the importance of the participation of the people of Jerusalem in the elections, as a crucial form of resistance and to confirm the link between Jerusalem and Arabs. That is what must be repeated during the upcoming municipal elections.

– Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi is the General Secretary of the Palestinian National Initiative. (The Palestine Chronicle translated the Article from Arabic)

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