Palestinian High Court: “Cancelling Elections is Illegal”

December 16, 2010 - IFES

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On December 13, 2010, the Palestinian High Court issued its final verdict on the lawsuits challenging the Council of Ministers (Cabinet) of the Palestinian Authority decision to cancel the local elections scheduled for July 17, 2010. The Court ruled that once the cabinet calls for elections, it does not have authority to cancel them.

This long-awaited decision puts an end to the judicial process that began on February 8, 2010 when the Cabinet scheduled the overdue local elections for July 17, 2010. This was despite clear indications that Hamas would boycott elections in the West Bank and that Hamas authorities would prevent elections in Gaza.

The Central Elections Commission (CEC) adhered to the call for elections and initiated electoral operations by opening voter registration centers throughout the West Bank. As anticipated, the CEC was prevented from conducting voter registration in Gaza. The CEC informed the Cabinet that it was not able to conduct elections in Gaza, and on April 25, the Cabinet issued a decision which postponed the elections there “until the CEC is able to carry out the necessary technical and administrative preparations.”

In the West Bank, the CEC proceeded with preparations for the polls and initiated registration of electoral lists (i.e. lists of candidates) on June 1, 2010. The nomination period was slated to conclude by June 10, according to the electoral law. With only a few hours of the nomination period left, the CEC received information that the Cabinet had cancelled the elections and decided that it would not proceed to the next step in the electoral process - publication of the electoral lists.

On July 18, four electoral lists responded to the Cabinet’s decision by filing a lawsuit, challenging the Cabinet’s right to cancel elections. This decision unleashed the legal quandary that resulted in the High Court’s ruling.

IFES-West Bank has issued this briefing paper that provides more in-depth information about this situation and the ruling.