Palestinians protest after Abbas postpones long-overdue elections
Abbas said that the legislative and presidential polls - called for May 22 and July 31 respectively - will be delayed due to Israel’s failure to guarantee that voting in east Jerusalem will be allowed.
Palestinians insist on the right to hold elections in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem, which Palestinians claim as the capital of their future state.
Abbas's decision has delayed a long-overdue democratic vote aimed at ending 15 years of political paralysis and division between the West Bank, where his Palestinian Authority is dominant, and the Gaza Strip, which has been ruled by Hamas since 2007.
Demonstrations were held in the centre of Ramallah, the commercial and governmental hub of the West Bank, with hundreds taking part in a march.
Protesters chanted "the people want the ballot box", echoing the Arab Spring slogan "the people want the fall of the regime".
Israel has yet to approve Palestinian elections in Jerusalem. Over the past few weeks, it has prevented several electoral meetings and arrested candidates in the occupied city.
Israel views Jerusalem as its "undivided capital" and has sought to quash any Palestinian political activity in the eastern side of the city, which it occupied in 1967 and later annexed in violation of international law.
The Palestinian National Initiative (PNI) political party, known as al-Mubadara in Arabic, said it rejected the delay and called for the vote to go on as planned. In a statement, PNI said postponing the election was akin to giving Israel the right to veto Palestinian elections and that the people had been denied of their right to vote for too long.
The last elections, held in 2006, saw Hamas win a landslide victory. The internal crisis that ensued culminated in the Islamist group’s takeover of the Gaza Strip the following year, confining Abbas' authority to parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
Hamas is expected to perform well in the 22 May parliamentary elections due to a rift within the rival Fatah group and has warned against postponing the elections.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell on Friday also expressed his dismay at the decision to postpone elections.
"The decision to postpone the planned Palestinian elections, including the legislative elections originally scheduled for 22 May, is deeply disappointing," Borrell said in a statement.
"We strongly encourage all Palestinian actors to resume efforts to build on the successful talks between the factions over recent months. A new date for elections should be set without delay."