2016 Activities

Political Parties, Factions, and Civil Society, reject Amendment of the Local Units Electoral System

Political Parties, Factions, and Civil Society, reject Amendment of the Local Units Electoral System

The coalition for Integrity and Accountability-AMAN office in Gaza held a workshop to discuss a proposal put forth by the Minister of Local Government in the national reconciliation government, on amending the local units’ electoral system.  The mentioned proposal was opposed by representatives of the local government units LGU) and political parties and factions who attended the session.  They all considered that priority goes to respect sovereignty of the Basic Law relating to situations of extreme necessities.  And to look into legal texts stated in the Local Election Law with the aim of solving problems stemming from the various interpretations of the text, which led to the fall of a number of candidates’ lists and the postponement of elections.  Attendees recommended that the present electoral system should not be changed from a closed list to an open list, but rather to reform the legal procedures specified in the current law and to carry it out on time. 

Amending the electoral system: Political parties and LGU must be engaged in discussions

In the presence of a number of representatives of political parties, factions, heads of local government units (LGU), and civil society (CS), Mr Majdi Abu-Zeid, Executive Director of AMAN, opened the discussion workshop by saying, before we begin to discuss the Minister of Local Government’s proposal I would like to emphasize the importance of respecting the principle of partnership in Palestine at the national level.  His remark was referring to the exclusion of representatives from CS, LGU, political factions, and citizens from the GS by the Minister from consultation sessions he carried out in the northern governorates of Palestine.
Abu-Zeid went on to question the need for amending the electoral system that was approved by representatives of the Palestinian people in the previous legislative council.  He also questioned the urgent need to amend it at this particular time by noting that there is no such a thing as an “ideal” electoral system. He said that what is important is to have a system that responds to the needs and makeup of a particular community, and also to compromises that take place around it.
In his presentation, Abu-Zeid touched upon the nature of the proposed amendment of the electoral system by pointing out that the one vote open-list system, which falls between the plurality electoral system (i.e. depends on single-member constituent allowing citizens to indicate one vote) and the closed proportional representation system, may take the Palestinian society back to the tribal  system.  It may also become a method for oppressing women and weakening their participation in elections.
Finally, Abu-Zeid stated that AMAN had called on the Minister of Local Government in the National Reconciliation Government to share his proposal with political parties and factions in the GS, same as he did in governorates of the West Bank, which can be carried out via video-conference.  However, the Minister did not respond positively to the call.

Proposal to amend the electoral system: divergent views, but unanimous rejection

From his perspective, Head of the Beit Lahyia Municipality, Mr.Iz-Eddin Addahnoun, saw that the proposed amendment imposes on a citizen to choose one person from the list, hence reflecting a regress in democracy as well as weakening citizens’ participation in selecting their representatives.
Mr.Khalil Shahin, Director of the Socio-Economic Unit at the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, said that the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) has the right to raise debates concerning the legislative system, including issuing decisions by laws and amendments, without engaging political forces and citizens living in Gaza. Similarly, there are systems, amendments, and laws that are issued by the legislative council in Gaza without studying the suitability of those decisions to citizens in the West Bank.
However, it would have been the better choice if the Minister of Local Government was more committed to meeting citizens’ needs by holding elections on time in accordance with the Basic Law, instead of rushing to amend the electoral system without carefully studying obstacles entailed; or taking undemocratic decisions and procedures which led to the failure of the electoral process at this time. 
Mr. Iyad Al-Krunz, Member of the Fateh Parliamentary Bloc, praised AMAN’s initiative of involving Gaza in debates on amendments proposed by the Minister.  He also confirmed that during the preparation for the electoral process in 2012 there was a full review of related interpretations of the current legal texts; hence there is no need, under these difficult social and political circumstances, to burden ourselves with the issue of changing the entire electoral system.   
Within the same context, Dr.Nafiz Al-Madhoun, Secretary General of the Legislative Council in Gaza, said that the amendment is merely a set of electoral policies that may or may not suit the Palestinian situation. According to Dr. Madhoun, the amendment is not a purely technical process, but a procedural one as well that is tied to political objectives.  He said that failure of elections in the previous stage was not because of a flaw in the electoral system, but due to political decisions that had nothing to do with the law.
Furthermore, Dr. Madhoun stressed the need for conducting a study on electoral conduct in relation to the current law where results of the study will form the basis for any proposed amendments and interpretations of articles stipulated within it. Moreover, it is vital that all parties are included in discussions of any amendments or change before approval.  Dr. Madhoun concluded his statement by saying that any future planning needs to be based on management of local government where electoral programs for LGU are focused on service delivery; while the law remains the as is and elections are held on time. After that, elections will be held and the proposed study implemented and the possibility of amending the electoral system will be discussed.

Conclusions and recommendations

Participants concluded that the Minister’s proposal needs further study by the LGU, national and Islamic political parties and factions, and civil society. They recommended that an open workshop be held where all national institutions and political parties can study and determine procedures and measures that ensure holding elections on time.

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