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A Vision for Palestinian Womens Rights Organizations based on the Global Study on the Implementation of UNSCR 1325
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Date posted: November 18, 2017
By MIFTAH

MIFTAH, in cooperation with the Central Elections Committee [CEC] held a EU-funded panel discussion platform on possible ways of amending the elections system in a way that would promote a democratic environment for supporting election process in Palestine . The workshop was part of the organizations Policy, Dialogue and Good Governance Program and the project My vote, my right for expression, my right for change, aimed at creating a dialogue on the obstacles to the political participation of Palestinian women and ways of overcoming them.

The participants discussed the challenges to introducing amendments to the electoral system in Palestine, including the Local Elections Law No. 10 of 2005. The results of the last elections in 2017 showed a setback in womens representation to around 20%.

In her opening speech, MIFTAH CEO Dr. Lily Feidy stressed on the importance of holding this panel session, saying she hoped for an earnest and serious dialogue that would result in firm recommendations to improve the situation and status of women. She also expressed hope for womens representation in all dialogues taking place as part of national reconciliation efforts and for a halt to womens marginalization.

MIFTAH coordinator Hanan Said said in her address that serious consideration must be given the possible ways of amending the elections system in Palestine in a way that would promote a democratic climate and the peaceful transfer of power. She also pointed to the importance of discussing womens participation in elections, the quota system and positive discrimination in favor of women, and of shedding light on the 2017 local council elections. This meeting, she said, was a continuation of discussions held by MIFTAH in partnership with civil society organizations and in cooperation with the CEC as part of MIFTAHs aforementioned program and project.

Legal framework for possible amendments to the elections system in Palestine

The first panel session included a discussion of the legal framework for amendments to the electoral system, to promote partnership and more comprehensive representation. CEC representative Suheir Abdeen presented an action paper entitled, Problems and challenges facing the electoral system in Palestine in which she addressed the problems in the electoral systems proportional representation and the challenges and importance of a sound electoral climate. She said this system was ostensibly to serve the political factions but that the reality of the last local council elections did not reflect the nature of factional or partisan participation. Instead, they were dominated by tribal and familial trends, which led to a warped application of the system. Furthermore, the problem of womens representation and their order on the lists was also apparent. The candidacy process showed that only five out of 820 lists included the names of women candidates while women candidates in the elections represented only 26% with only 21% of them winning.

Abdeen also broached the election threshold, calling for a reconsideration of the percentage that should determine the desired threshold. She also called for agreeing on a mechanism for womens representation in open lists.

Director General of the Independent Commission for Human Rights, Dr. Ammar Dweik then presented a paper entitled: Available opportunities for ways to introduce amendments to the electoral system including for local elections and legislative laws. In it, he pointed out the basic challenges and problems facing the elections process. First: the lack of periodic elections; second: the blow to pluralism caused by the division; third: the absence of an atmosphere of rights and liberties for free and fair elections. Dweik pointed out the indicators proving this, most importantly the current laws that place restrictions on freedom of expression and the fact that candidates receive direct and indirect threats whether in the West Bank or Gaza Strip.

Dweik also pointed to the lack of a comprehensive and regulating legal framework that organizes the work of political parties and all official, private and social branches of the media. He said there were several shortcomings to the regulatory framework for elections but reaffirmed his support for raising the womens quota to a minimum of 30% and to impose restrictions on candidacies from one family in addition to reconsidering early voting for security forces. As for the threshold, Dweik maintained that it should depend on the electoral system itself, deeming it premature to reconsider it right now.

Dweik concluded by saying, The reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas constitutes an opportunity to rebuild a sound system through elections which would lead to real political partnership and trust in the other. It also provides a healthy climate for citizens to freely run in these elections.

Meanwhile, member of MIFTAHs Board of Directors, Abdel Qader Husseini presented on behalf of the BoD, saying, The role of civil society organizations is to press for amendments to the electoral system in a way that would promote justice. He maintained that the basic problem is the lack of participation from the youth sector in elections and in accessing decision-making positions. In this regard, he addressed two problems in the boards of directors of institutions and associations. First, Husseini said, was a lack of youth representation between the age of 25-30. He called for the expansion of general assemblies and an increase in the number of youths in these assemblies. The second problem he said, was related with not utilizing the best means of technology to achieve satisfactory youth representation, calling for surveys and opinion polls to be conducted, which would promote the participation process.

Husseini said he endorsed a youth quota of 60%, on condition that it is equal between youth and women at a 50:50 ratio, in addition to the 30% quota for women.

The 2017 local council election results and womens representation

In the second session, the speakers broached the subject of the 2017 local elections results and the setback in womens representation. Elections affairs expert Dr. Taleb Awad addressed the elections law in Palestine, both in terms of the local council and legislative elections. He said women did not score any results in the 2006 PLC elections even though they received 17 seats; that is 2% of the overall vote but not from voter tallies.

Awad explained that the factions, which signed the honor code on womens participation and their order in the electoral lists, did not abide by their commitment. In the 2017 elections, women were on 64% of the lists, in fifth place.

In terms of the elections law and the proposed amendments, Awad maintained that the basic amendment must include an increase in womens representation. He also called for cancelling the threshold in local elections. Awad stressed on the need for any announcement of resignations to be posted in local councils, saying: Anyone who resigns should not be allowed to run again for the next four years. The candidacy age, he maintained, should be determined in general elections.

This was followed by a presentation from Aref Jaffal, director of the Arab World Democracy and Electoral Monitor (Al Marsad) in which he addressed the monitoring framework of the electoral system in Palestine. He spoke about the performance of the local monitoring committee and its call to prevent any changes to the laws during the elections. He also talked about the role of the CEC in motivating citizens to participate in elections, voter registration procedures, follow-up on the environment surrounding candidacies, monitoring election campaigns, and if the CEC procedures for these campaigns were sufficient for regulating the election process.

Jaffal said the local monitoring committees conclusion confirmed that money played a role in the latest elections and that the official media was not neutral in its coverage. He also said social media was used to conduct personal interviews with the candidates. Finally, he added, there was a need to further discuss the early voting of security services.

Womens activist Rima Nazzal then gave an assessment of the womens quota in the electoral system. She pointed to the fact that 14 years after the quota law was passed, it still has not achieved any of its goals. She said no policies had been formulated towards its implementation, it had been dominated by male and tribal mentality in local councils and society still does not believe in womens presence or ability to work in the public arena.

In conclusion, Nazzal stressed that the quota system needs measures to be taken that would achieve gender equality, but admitted that progress in this regard would be slow for two reasons: First, because of the way society looks at women, which requires a (school) curriculum that produces a different awareness than what prevails today. She noted that the media perpetuates the stereotypical image of women similar to what is in the curriculum while the PA perpetuates the tribal dimension in order to benefit from it through the tribal departments in local governance. Women cannot advance unless real efforts are made towards creating a democratic environment steered by a democratic system.

Presentations

The two panel sessions were followed by several presentations, including: calling for ratified laws to address the exclusion and marginalization from which women suffer in terms of their representation and order in electoral lists; reaffirming that open lists should remain an acceptable option for women if places are reserved for them beforehand and which will also guarantee womens representation of at least 30%; the quota must be considered as a launching point to promote womens participation.

The presentations stressed on the importance of benefiting from the media and going out in the street to promote amendments to the current electoral system; taking the current political environment into consideration and the obligations and responsibilities of the state in empowering and enabling various youth sectors to participate, including the special needs sector.

One of the presentations considered the proportional representation system as one form of political tribalism, which led to division and exclusivity, calling for adherence to needs at the national level and to consider the individual system in electoral constituencies thereby choosing the right person and not the party or faction; they also called for starting up a broad-based societal dialogue that includes civil society institutions and the public.

Another intervention pointed out that the crisis pertains to the political system which does not embrace a real democratic process and does not allow for freedom of expression. Others called for reviving the honor code to obligate factions to adhere to the quota and abide by their commitments.

Recommendations

  • One: To continue discussions towards identifying the shape of the electoral system which will guarantee a democratic, pluralistic and participatory atmosphere for Palestinians and which coincides with the electoral environment in Palestine.

  • Two: To work towards addressing the shortcomings of the legal framework regulating elections, including the absence of laws and procedures such as the partisan law, private media and funding for parties and candidates.

  • Three: To have true determination for the participation of the various social sectors including women, youth and special needs persons.

  • Four: To pressure for the restoration of the democratic climate in PLO bodies and to move away from the policy of partisan allocations.

  • Five: To develop monitoring tools for dealing with the media and social media by preparing youth and women to become more involved in the democratic process

  • Six: Expanding the participation of youth and women in public bodies of civil society, in the framework of preparing youth and women cadres to engage in the democratic process.

  • Seven: To renew the commitment of political parties to the honor code in regards to womens representation of at least 30%

  • Eight: To call on the womens movement to press for improving policies that will guarantee actual equality and participation and not view the quota as a goal in and of itself

  • Nine: To reconsider the early voting of the security services.

Arabic ...

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