05:03 GMT06 May 2021
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    Protests are expected in Ramallah, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem immediately after iftar, a traditional Ramadan meal that breaks the fast. Mobs will take to the streets to send a message to the PA leader Mahmoud Abbas and tell him that his attempt to postpone the elections will not go unnoticed.

    After waiting for a legislative vote for more than 15 years, Palestinians might be asked to wait a little longer.

    On Thursday, Palestinian factions are set to meet immediately after iftar, a traditional Ramadan meal that breaks the fast, to discuss whether the much-anticipated vote will indeed take place.

    Jerusalem Remains an Issue

    The way it looks now, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas is expected to announce his decision to postpone the race indefinitely, and Dr. Saad Nimr, a Ramallah-based political analyst, says he is likely to pin his decision "on the issue of Jerusalem that hasn't been resolved yet".

    Palestinians have repeatedly reiterated that elections will not be possible if Israel refuses to let the residents of East Jerusalem, an area which remains disputed by both sides of the conflict, to participate in the race.

    Although Israel's foreign ministry said on Tuesday that it had no intention to interfere or disrupt the Palestinian elections, regarded as a purely internal matter, officials in Ramallah were fearful that the Jewish state might still pull some tricks like it did in 2006.

    Back then, Palestinians complained that residents of East Jerusalem were prevented from entering polling stations, that key figures were detained for unexplained reasons and that at some polling stations in the disputed city, Israeli police officers were present to monitor the flow of the elections.

    Yet Another Excuse 

    But Nimr says Abbas knows how to avoid the repetition of those events. He knows that East Jerusalem residents could potentially vote in the West Bank instead of at home, or they could place their ballot boxes inside mosques and churches, to which Israel would have limited access.

    "We believe that East Jerusalem is a convenient excuse for Abbas and that the real reason [for his intention to call off the vote] lies elsewhere."

    Abbas' standing has deteriorated over the years. In 2019, before the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, 60 percent of the Palestinians thought the PA leader should have resigned because of his inability to tackle corruption or address social injustice. 

    Then came 2020, which dealt his approval ratings another blow. First, it was the eruption of COVID-19 and the restrictive measures that the government imposed that put a strain on the already-faltering Palestinian economy.

    Then it was the attempts of Prime Minister Netanyahu to extend Israeli sovereignty over parts of the West Bank, a plan that the PA was struggling to contain. And, finally, it was the normalisation pacts signed between the Jewish state and a number of Muslim countries that emphasised that for many nations, the Palestinian cause was no longer an issue.

    Last December, a poll found that 66 percent of Palestinians wanted Abbas to step down. 38 percent said they would still vote for his Fatah list, while 34 percent stated they would go for the rival movement Hamas. 

    That same survey also revealed that 25 percent of Palestinians would vote for the long-time prisoner Marwan Barghouti if he ended up compiling his own list, as opposed to Fatah, that was projected to get 19 percent in that battle.

    "Abbas is afraid that if elections take place, the list associated with Barghouti will win [the Freedom party, where his wife Fadwa is placed second - ed.]. And this means that he will also have good chances in winning the presidential race, something that the current PA leader would like to avoid."

    However, postponing the much-anticipated vote will not be that easy. Various groups who oppose the move have already stated that that decision, if it does end up taking place, will not go unnoticed. 

    Crowds are expected to take to Ramallah's Al Manara square later this evening and some reports indicate that protests are also expected in the Gaza Strip and Jerusalem, where Palestinians will vent anger at the shaping decision to call off the vote. 

    "For some reason, Abbas is under the impression that protests will eventually cease. But Palestinians would like to send a message to the Central Committee of Fatah and that message is that they won't let them postpone the elections."

    Abbas, says Nimr, has been in power for 15 years. Now it's time for a change.

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