According to a presidential decree issued on 8 January 2005, one day before the Palestinian presidential elections, by then interim President of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), Rawhi Fattouh, the elections to the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) would be held on 17 July 2005. However, holding the PLC elections was postponed after a new decree was issued by the elected Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on 3 June 2005.
The decision to postpone parliamentary elections was taken in light of legal difficulties resulting from the non-promulgation of a new electoral law. Amendments to the current electoral law (Law 13 of 1995) have been collectively demanded by Palestinian partisan entities and civil society organizations. According to a letter sent by the Central Election Commission (CEC) to President Abbas on 23 May 2005, the CEC would need at least two months from the date the new electoral law entered into force to meet the legal periods related to the electoral process, including candidature and elections campaigning. When the presidential decree postponing the PLC elections was issued, only 55 days remained before holding the parliamentary elections on the originally specified date of 17 July 2005. This would have meant that even if the new electoral law was ratified elections could not have been held on the originally specified date.
PCHR issued a press release on 10 April 2005, expressing concerns of the delay in approving the amended electoral law, warning that “the opportunities to hold parliamentary elections on the specified date have almost vanished.” However, the amended law was not issued although it was approved by the PLC in its third reading on 18 May 2005.
One of the most debated aspects of the draft amendment relates to the adoption of mixed electoral system, under which two thirds of the PLC members would be elected under the standard system of using geographical electoral constituencies through a first-past-the post simple majority system. The other one third of the members will be elected using a central electoral list which consists of one national constituency elected using proportional representation. The proposed mixed electoral system is a positive development in the Palestinian electoral system as it will ensure a just representation of Palestinians. However, it does not go far enough and most Palestinian civil society groups and partisan entities have called for more amendments to ensure that at least half of the PLC members be elected in accordance with the system of proportional representation. Such representation is pursuant to the agreement concluded between Palestinian partisan entities and the PNA in Cairo a few months ago.
PCHR supports the holding of parliamentary elections which it hopes will mark an important stage of the process of peaceful transition of authority in the Palestinian political regime that will serve democratic reform. Holding parliamentary elections was delayed and has been much anticipated since the expiry of the legal term of the current PLC on 4 May 1999, when the interim period under the Oslo Accords ended. Elections must be held in order to end a PLC whose legitimacy and democratic representation of the people who elected it ended nine years ago.
The postponement of holding parliamentary elections sine die (without another date specified) does not serve the democratic process and will maintain an appointed PLC in office indefinitely also. There are concerns that the current situation serves that interests of many PLC members who seek to maintain this unhealthy situation. As the Palestinian people were able to select their president in free and fair elections, they have the right to select their representatives to the PLC as soon as possible.
While PCHR realizes the legal impediments that stand in the face of holding the parliamentary elections on originally specified date, it calls upon the PNA to ratify the amended law soon and elect a new and reasonable date for holding parliamentary elections.