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Palestinian factions agree on presidential and legislative elections

Palestinian factions said on Wednesday they agreed to hold elections by the end of 2018 and praised the unity deal aimed at ending a long-running dispute between Fatah and Hamas.

The call for elections was made in a joint statement at the end of two days of closed-door talks in Cairo attended by representatives of 13 leading political parties.

The factions called on the electoral commission to prepare for presidential and legislative elections to be held by the end of next year at the latest.

They asked Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to set a date for the polls after consulting with all sides.

The factions also praised the unity deal struck between the two largest parties – Hamas and Fatah – in October.

The Egypt-sponsored agreement is aimed at ending a 10-year rift between them, and calls on Hamas to cede power in the Gaza Strip to the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority (PA) by 1 December.

The statement said the reconciliation deal between Hamas and Abbas’s Fatah party was a “realistic start to end divisions”.

It underscored the “importance of removing all obstacles in the path of the government’s efforts to immediately assume its responsibilities towards our people”.

The statement did not say whether Hamas and Fatah reached a detailed agreement on security responsibilities in the enclave, which has so far remained in the hands of Hamas-backed security services.

The factions did, however, call on Abbas to end sanctions that have been imposed on the impoverished enclave. They have included power cuts and salary reductions of 30 percent to some 60,000 Gazans employed by his Palestinian Authority.

Abbas said previously he would lift the sanctions upon assuming control of Gaza.

Palestinian parliamentary elections have not been held since Hamas seized control of Gaza in 2007 from Fatah.

Palestinian and international leaders hope implementation of the unity deal may help ease the hardships of Gaza’s two million residents, who suffer from severe poverty and unemployment.

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