Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced parliamentary and presidential elections on Friday, the first in 15 years, in an effort to heal long-standing internal divisions.
The move is widely seen as a response to criticism of the democratic legitimacy of Palestinian political institutions, including Abbas’s presidency.
It also comes days before the inauguration of U.S. President-elect Joe Biden, with whom the Palestinians want to reset relations after they reached a low under President Donald Trump.
According to a decree issued by Abbas’s office, the Palestinian Authority, which has limited self-rule in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, will hold legislative elections on May 22 and a presidential vote on July 31.
“The President instructed the election committee and all state apparatuses to launch a democratic election process in all cities of the homeland,” the decree said, referring to the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.
Gaza’s ruling Islamist group Hamas welcomed the announcement.
“We have worked in past months to resolve all obstacles so that we can reach this day,” Hamas said in a statement. The elections, to take place in May and July, respectively, would be the Palestinians’ first national ballots in 15 years.
The Palestinians’ last parliamentary ballot in 2006 resulted in a surprise win by Hamas, widening an internal political rift that led to the group’s military seizure of the Gaza Strip in 2007.
Palestinian factions have renewed reconciliation efforts after Israel reached diplomatic agreements last year with four Arab countries, accords that dismayed Palestinians and prompted their leaders to try to present a united front.