Carter Center Calls for Scheduling of Palestine Elections and Lays Out Possible Roadmap to Polls

ATLANTA (July 15, 2021) — The Carter Center calls on the Palestinian Authority leadership to reschedule Palestinian presidential, legislative, and municipal elections—ideally within the next six months—and to engage with political leaders to create an environment conducive to peaceful and genuine elections.

Although the Israeli authorities’ actions in the Occupied Territories impede Palestinians’ fundamental rights—including their freedom of movement, assembly, and association—the protracted internal political division between Fatah and Hamas has been the main obstacle to holding democratic elections for more than a decade. The two main Palestinian political parties could move forward with elections if they have the political will to do so. It is critical that credible polls are held to renew the democratic mandate of Palestinian elected officials and to ensure that elected officials represent Palestinians’ current needs and wants.

The Palestinian Authority should immediately:

  • Take steps to calm escalating tensions and ensure the creation of an environment conducive to competitive, inclusive, and genuine democratic elections. This includes full protection for Palestinians’ rights to freedom of assembly, expression, and personal security.
  • Release jailed human rights activists, journalists, and political party representatives and implement additional measures to build confidence and create an environment conducive to an inclusive competitive campaign and democratic elections.

Hamas authorities in Gaza also should release political prisoners and ensure the full protection of political rights and fundamental freedoms in Gaza.

  • Repeal the recent law (which is currently “frozen” or suspended) that undermines civil society organizations by restricting their funding and obstructing their activities. Civil society activists in both Gaza and the West Bank must be allowed to fully participate in the electoral process, including by observing political and electoral processes, holding demonstrations, and disseminating public statements.
  • Seek clear confirmation from Israel that it will allow Palestinian voters to cast ballots in their respective post offices in East Jerusalem and facilitate the inclusive conduct of the polls, as per Israel’s obligations under the Oslo Accords.

If an agreement with Israel cannot be reached, Palestinian leaders and election officials should devise alternative methods to allow voters in East Jerusalem to participate in the polls.

Representatives of the international community, particularly the U.S. government, should support Palestinian leaders in these efforts and should engage with both Palestinian and Israeli authorities to clarify steps to conduct elections across the territory.

The two main political parties should re-engage immediately to finalize political agreements to outline additional concrete steps that will enable genuine elections and foster an environment that is fully conducive to political participation, including steps to:

  • Define the appropriate roles and responsibilities of security forces in maintaining safety at demonstrations and campaign rallies without impeding voter and candidate participation.
  • Ensure that the independence and impartiality of the Central Election Commission is maintained and that all required funding for elections is in place.
  • Clarify any ambiguities in the legal framework for elections. Candidate requirements for president, including those that require candidates to recognize Palestinian Liberation Organization agreements, should be clearly defined. Political parties should implement transparent and democratic procedures for candidate selection and ensure the full participation of women and youth as candidates, reflecting recent agreements to implement a 30 percent quota for women and to lower the nomination threshold for candidates to 25 years of age.
  • Implement the Cairo agreement to support the work of a specialized court that was established to consider challenges specific to the electoral process.
  • Consider once again the formation of a technocratic or national unity government, as agreed by all major factions in Cairo, that would be responsible for ensuring conducive conditions and preparations for the elections. It could also oversee, on an interim basis, the rebuilding process in Gaza.
  • Seek consensus on, and ratify a draft law for, elections to the Palestinian National Council, the legislative body of the Palestinian Liberation Organization. Leaders must define measures for voter registration and mechanisms for the conduct of elections or appointment of members outside of the Palestinian territory, as well as clarify which bodies will administer and oversee the polls.

Background.  Elections for president and the Palestinian Legislative Council were last held in 2005 and 2006, respectively. The protracted political impasse between Fatah and Hamas, and continual disagreements between the Gaza and West Bank governments on electoral modalities, have impeded periodic elections in Palestine.

Although Palestinian Basic Law restricts the presidency to two consecutive four-year terms, President Mahmoud Abbas has remained in office since his mandate expired in 2009. The four-year mandate of PLC members expired in 2010; members stayed in their positions until 2018, when the legislative body was dissolved by presidential decree.

Additionally, municipal elections, last held in 2017, were incomplete and largely non-competitive. Hamas boycotted the polls, and, citing Fatah’s failure to implement reconciliation agreements between the two parties, did not allow for their conduct in Gaza.

The four-year mandate of West Bank officials expired in May 2021. Many resigned, leading the PA to disband all elected municipal councils and reappoint them as acting authorities without setting a new date for elections. This leaves a vacuum that greatly impacts basic service delivery and local governance.

The Central Election Commission has repeatedly demonstrated its ability and readiness to implement national elections in a transparent and democratic nature. The CEC has introduced online voter registration, and 93% of eligible voters are now registered, demonstrating that Palestinians yearn for elections. This is particularly true of younger Palestinians, the majority of whom have never had an opportunity to participate in national elections.


Contact: In Atlanta, Soyia Ellison,
In Ramallah, Qais Asád,

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A not-for-profit, nongovernmental organization, The Carter Center has helped to improve life for people in over 80 countries by resolving conflicts; advancing democracy, human rights, and economic opportunity; preventing diseases; and improving mental health care. The Carter Center was founded in 1982 by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, in partnership with Emory University, to advance peace and health worldwide.