06:21 GMT06 May 2021
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    The 22nd of May was supposed to be the day Palestinians headed to the polls in their first legislative elections in 15 years. But Thursday's decision by President Mahmoud Abbas has put an end to those hopes, triggering protests against his government.

    It's been several days since Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced that he had decided to push the legislative elections set for 22 May to an indefinite date but crowds in the West Bank and Gaza are still boiling with rage.

    Thursday and Friday saw mobs of young Palestinians taking to the streets to vent their anger over the decision to call off the much-anticipated race, the first in 15 years. The projections are that demonstrations are to continue throughout the week.

    Disappointed and Angry

    For Emad Al-Khaldy, a 29-year-old resident of Deir Al-Balah located in the centre of the Gaza Strip, the main reason for this anger is disappointment and the realisation that the "dream of elections" will remain remote. 

    "We wanted to participate in these elections to exercise our right for self-determination. But the president [Mahmoud Abbas] has prevented us from doing so. He has taken away our human and legal rights. I think it will go on forever, things won't change".
    President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas
    © Photo : kremlin.ru
    President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas

    The past couple of years have been extremely difficult for the Palestinians. Their efforts for an independent state have been largely neglected. Much of their funding has been trimmed leading to an acute fiscal crisis.

    That crisis has only deepened with time. With the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic and the attempts to curb it, the Palestinian authorities shut down private businesses and private institutions. Unemployment rates went up and so did poverty.

    The Palestinians, many of whom blame Abbas for the current mess, were hopeful they could change the situation by heading to the polls but their postponement brought those dreams to a standstill.

    "I don't believe that Abbas called them off because of Jerusalem", said Al-Khaldy, referring to the official reason the elections were cancelled. The PA leadership officially called a halt to the polls because it said Israel would prevent the participation of East Jerusalemites in the elections, a move considered a red line for the Palestinians.
    A picture taken with a drone shows Hamas supporters taking part in a protest against Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' decision to postpone planned parliamentary elections, in the northern Gaza Strip on April 30, 2021.
    © REUTERS / Mohammed Salem
    A picture taken with a drone shows Hamas supporters taking part in a protest against Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' decision to postpone planned parliamentary elections, in the northern Gaza Strip on April 30, 2021.
    "He knew very well that had they taken place, his party Fatah would lose its leadership role and new faces would come to power".

    Al-Khaldy is not alone. Similar concerns were voiced by Saleem Mohammed, a 46-year-old Palestinian from the city of Hebron in the West Bank. 

    "President Abbas and his sons are corrupted. All he cares about is to remain in power. And he knows that the results would not be in his favour".

    The standing of Abbas has deteriorated over the years. Even before the outbreak of the coronavirus, a poll found that 60 percent of Palestinians thought he should resign. The eruption of COVID-19 in the West Bank and Gaza has only made matters worse.

    In December 2020, another survey revealed that 66 percent of Palestinians wanted him to leave office, as opposed to 30 percent who wanted him to remain.

    Anger Won't Turn Into a War

    Now, with the prospect of elections turning into a remote possibility, both men say the dissatisfaction with Abbas and his government will continue to grow. But neither believes it will develop into a full-scale confrontation with the authorities.

    © REUTERS / MOHAMAD TOROKMAN
    A screen displaying a live broadcast of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's speech during a meeting to discuss upcoming elections, is seen in a coffee shop in Ramallah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank April 29, 2021.
    "The Palestinians have lost trust in all their factions and they understand that they will not be able to ease their suffering. But I highly doubt they will want to clash with the security forces. The reason being is that our people have already suffered enough and they don't want to be caught in the game between Fatah and Hamas".

    Mohammed agreed. "People don't have any means to express their anger. The only thing they have is their ability to protest but that won't spill over". 

    Tags:
    mass protests, mass protests, protests, protest, Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian Territories, Palestinian territories, Palestinian Authority, Palestinian Authority, Palestinians, Israel
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