Palestinian factions begin talks on elections in Cairo

The two-day talks between Fatah and Hamas will focus on issues related to upcoming legislative and presidential elections.

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Palestinians plan to hold legislative elections on May 22 and presidential polls on July 31 [File: Claudio Reyes/EPA]

Palestinian factions have begun a national dialogue in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, on Monday to prepare for upcoming elections.

“The national dialogue sessions are under way in Cairo under the auspices of (Egyptian) President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi,” Egyptian state television reported.

On the agenda are thorny issues such as judicial and security arrangements for the vote and the fate of Palestinian voters in Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem.

“The two-day dialogue will focus on issues related to the elections, including ways of holding the polls without interference,” Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem told the Turkish state news agency, Anadolu.

“We will also discuss neutralising people and parties who affect the will of Palestinian voters and the necessary steps to allow freedoms in the West Bank and Gaza,” Qassem said.

The Hamas spokesman said his movement has “options and alternatives to deal with all obstacles in order to accomplish this file”.

Palestinians plan to hold legislative elections on May 22 and presidential polls on July 31, for the first time in 15 years.

Jibril Rajoub, the head of Fatah’s delegation, told the AFP news agency: “We are confident we will overcome any obstacles in going ahead with legislative elections slated for May 22.”

Fourteen Palestinian political groups are taking part in the sessions sponsored by Egypt, as it seeks to leverage its regional clout.

The talks come on the same day as an emergency Arab League meeting, also held in Cairo, to discuss the Palestinian cause.

The two main political factions have been at odds since 2006 elections, which Hamas won in an unexpected landslide. The victory was not recognised by Fatah, leading to bloody clashes the following year and a split in Palestinian governance.

Fatah has run the Palestinian Authority in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Hamas has held power in the Gaza Strip since 2007, the year Israel imposed a devastating blockade on the Mediterranean enclave.

In September, however, the two groups agreed during their talks in Turkey to hold parliamentary and presidential elections.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies