The generation of Gazans that has never voted

By Saud Abu Ramadan

Gaza, Jan 25 (EFE).- The last time Gazans voted in elections was in 2006 when Hamas, a fundamentalist Islamic party considered a terrorist group by Israel, the United States and the European Union, won a general election in Palestinian territories, flaring tensions with secular group Fatah and resulting in an Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Once again, Palestinians in Gaza will be barred from this year’s local elections in the West Bank amid soaring political disaffection.

“Unfortunately, in Palestine, especially Gaza, there is no democracy because of the (Israeli) occupation and Palestinian division,” Doha Bakker, a 30-year-old mother of three, tells Efe.

“When (Mahmoud) Abbas was elected president in 2005, I was only three years old, and when Hamas won the 2006 legislative elections, I was four,” Wisam Hasan, a 20-year-old political science student who has never left the Gaza Strip and doubts he will be able to vote soon, adds.

In January 2005, Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) boycotted the elections in which Abbas rose to power.

In the 2006 Legislative Council elections, Hamas emerged victorious, but factional fighting ensued with Fatah and both parties were unable to agree on a power-sharing deal.

The result was a division of the Palestinian Territories: Hamas ruled Gaza, and Fatah led the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) in the West Bank.

Since then, no legislative or presidential elections have been held, although the PNA has held local elections in the West Bank, the latest in December with a second round due to take place in March.

Hamas and other factions in the Gaza strip have boycotted the elections after Abbas decided to call off the parliamentary elections that were slated for last May.

The president announced the indefinite suspension of elections after Israel refused to hold the ballot in Jerusalem.

Some 1.2 million Palestinians had been called to the vote, including 863,000 from the West Bank and East Jerusalem, around 70 % of voters.

Voters in the Gaza Strip, which has a very young demographic with 45% of its population under the age of 15, make up 30 % of voters in Palestinian territories.

“When we asked for elections to be called, each faction blamed the other,” Gazan Khaled Mushtaha, 38, tells Efe.

“The people are the victims, people are lost, and an entire generation is completely destroyed.”

According to a December poll by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, the number of voters who think that neither Fatah nor Hamas “deserve to represent and lead the Palestinian people has increased considerably”.

Hamas (38%) remains more popular than Fatah (35%) and Islamist leader Ismail Haniyeh (58%), would easily beat Abbas (38%) in a presidential standoff, which is why many believe that the Palestinian president canceled the vote last May.

Some 74% of Palestinians want Abbas to resign and a large majority think their institutions are corrupt.

“Those who are always paying the heavy price are the population who have been suffering from a hard living situation and deep political disputes for 17 years,” Mustafa Ibrahim, a Gaza political analyst, tells Efe.

According to Ibrahim, Abbas, Hamas and the remaining Palestinian factions are “fully responsible for the suffering of the people.”

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