Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas issued a presidential decree over the weekend in which he promises to promote and strengthen public and political freedom, ahead of the upcoming legislative and presidential elections.
Following this order, political prisoners in the PA and the Gaza Strip, including dozens of Hamas operatives, are expected to be released.
The order is based on the PLO’s basic laws and a series of amendments to the election laws of 2003 and 2007 and is in line with the Cairo agreements from February 9 reached by representatives of the various factions.
The order is binding for all parties and factions, and is valid for all areas, including eastern Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.
The order is intended to ensure and promote a “climate of public liberties,” including freedom of political and national activity and emphasizes that prosecution, imprisonment, or detention due to opinion and political affiliation will be banned.
The order directs the release of detainees and prisoners imprisoned for political and partisan positions and gives complete freedom to political activity in the run-up to elections, activities on social networks, in the media, publications, conventions, and meetings. The order also guarantees for all lists running in the elections equal opportunities in coverage in the official media.
Abu Mazen justifies the order following “the exceptional circumstances the Palestinian people are facing” and Palestinian Authority Justice Minister Mohammad Shalalda said in an interview with Arab media that the order would apply to all Palestinian Authority territories and it would release all political detainees.
The order stipulates that members of the Palestinian police in uniform will secure the polling stations, also in the Gaza Strip and the entire election process, and will work to ensure that it is carried out in accordance with the provisions of Palestinian Authority law.
Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem commented on the order, saying that the presidential order was one of the conditions raised by the factions in Cairo ahead of the election. He said, “Hamas has taken great strides in the area of freedom and the Gaza Strip is completely open to all political and media activity and is ready to take further steps towards free, fair and transparent elections.”
The Palestinian Authority is now waiting to see if Hamas will agree to the presence of Palestinian Authority police officers around the polling stations in the Gaza Strip.
Another question now being asked by the PA is regarding the continued persecution and arrests of Muhammad Dahlan’s people, Abu Mazen’s political rival. This weekend, TPS learned that some of Dahlan’s men in eastern Jerusalem are still wanted for questioning and some of them received phone calls and were called in for questioning in Ramallah.
Another question that arises in this matter concerns the continued arrests made by the PA among Hamas operatives in Judea and Samaria, as part of the security coordination with Israel. Recently, Hamas activists in Judea and Samaria complained that the PA had made a wave of arrests to undermine their preparations for the elections and that Israel had made arrests among senior members of Hamas’ Judea and Samaria leadership.
Meanwhile, it should be noted that alongside the “public liberties” order, Abu Mazen issued another order instructing at least seven seats be reserved for Christians in the Legislative Council.