The new Palestinian government in Ramallah on Tuesday welcomed a new drive for reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas and the renewal of their efforts to hold long-awaited elections.
At a meeting in Ramallah, the cabinet praised “the recent Cairo agreement” on reconciliation and also the plans to move towards presidential and legislative elections, it said in a statement.
“The speedy implementation of this agreement would represent a response to our people’s aspirations and ambitions,” it said.
At Egyptian-brokered talks in Cairo, senior Fatah and Hamas officials agreed on Sunday that the Palestinian electoral commission would start work in Gaza on May 27 and that consultations on a new interim “government of independents” would start the same day.
Hamas and Fatah have been struggling to forge such a government since the surprise announcement in April 2011 of a reconciliation deal between the two rivals.
The 25-member cabinet of Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, which was sworn in last week with 11 new faces, also said it wanted to push ahead with local elections ahead of presidential and parliamentary polls.
Under the terms of the unity deal, such elections had been due to take place within a year of the agreement being signed.
“The cabinet considers the Cairo agreement a prelude to conducting local elections within a consensual atmosphere,” Tuesday’s statement said.
“Accordingly, the cabinet asked the local governance minister to complete his consultations with the Central Elections Committee to guarantee its readiness to conduct those elections in order for the cabinet to take the proper decision on the election date.”
Local elections had been due to take place last July but were first postponed until October, then deferred indefinitely.
The last time the Palestinians went to the polls was for parliamentary elections in 2006, which Hamas won by a landslide.
President Mahmoud Abbas last week amended the existing law, allowing local elections to be initially held in the West Bank only, drawing criticism from Gaza’s Hamas rulers.
The non-partisan national unity government envisaged in the reconciliation accord would be headed by Abbas and serve for a six-month term, while it oversees new elections.
Should it fail, the sides would meet again to select a new government, this time to be headed by an independent nominee.