Divisions and doubt cloud Palestinian election

Palestinians will hold their first national elections in 15 years, and while many welcomed the announcement on Friday (January 15) many are also sceptical, they will bring any change – or even happen at all.

President Mahmoud Abbas said the parliamentary and presidential elections would be held later this year in a bid to heal long-standing divisions.

His main rival, the militant Islamist group Hamas that runs the Gaza strip, welcomed the move.

The Palestinians Reuters spoke to were cautiously optimistic.

"We are in need of a democratic framework that can bring radical change whether in the government or the national council that has been in place for years, which needs renewal and young blood, to build a free democratic nation that is built on all the Palestinian territories."

''This is a 100% good decision, merited for over 15 years, if not more, we are supposed to be initiating a state and thus should have democracy, and democracy is elections."

The split territory is plagued by political infighting and distrusts of institutions.

The announcement is widely seen as a gesture aimed at pleasing U.S. President-elect Joe Biden. Palestinians are keen to reset relations after they reached a low under Donald Trump.

It’s not clear whether 85-year-old Abbas who is in poor health is going to run.

A December poll by the Palestinian for Policy and Survey Research found 52% of Palestinians think elections held under present conditions would not be fair and free.

If Hamas won, 76% thought Fatah - the party led by Abbas - would not accept the result.

58% believed Hamas would reject a Fatah victory.

Gaza is a Hamas stronghold, while Abbas's power base is in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

The two groups have failed to achieve lasting reconciliation, and previous election pledges went unfulfilled.