Palestinian authority postpones parliamentary elections

The long-overdue parliamentary vote in Palestinian territories, set for 22 May, was once again postponed by President Mahmoud Abbas after challengers from his own party threatened to weaken his hold on power, news wires reported.

Abbas' decision, which came just two days before campaigning was supposed to begin, indefinitely postponed the vote and a July presidential election as well. The step angered many Palestinians eager to replace a president who has not held a vote in the last 15 years and failed to deliver on his main goal of achieving independence from Israel. Expectedly, street protests broke out in several cities in the West Bank and Gaza.

"People have been waiting for elections for 15 years, hoping this would be the light at the end of tunnel, especially given the absence of a peace track with Israel," said Fadi Elsalameen, a Palestinian democracy activist and prominent critic of Abbas. "Closing this window will have severe consequences. It will lead to violence against the Palestinian leadership."

At a late-night meeting with party leaders on Thursday, Abbas said Israel refused to commit to allowing Palestinians to vote in Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem, which Palestinian leaders claim for a future capital. Israel has not stated its position publicly. "We will not move to hold elections without Jerusalem," Abbas said.

Shortly after midnight, he read from a statement: "Due to this difficult situation, we decided to postpone the legislative elections until the participation of Jerusalem and its people is guaranteed," he said. "We will not relinquish our rights to Jerusalem and the rights of its people to exercise their legitimate democratic rights."

But some other Palestinian officials offered a different explanation for postponing the vote, that a majority of Abbas' party leaders, Israel and regional Arab allies all urged a postponement because it could expedite the end of his political career.

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