Abbas Expected to Stay, Despite Retirement Announcement

Hamas' refusal to hold elections in Gaza will likely delay elections from January indefinitely.

Three days after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas stated that he does not intend to run in the next Palestinian presidential election, more analysts are saying he is likely to keep his current post for a long time to come.

Palestinian analysts as well as senior Palestinian Authority and Fatah officials believe that so long as Fatah and Hamas do not reconcile, the presidential and parliamentary elections Abbas called for January 24, 2010 will be postponed indefinitely.

This is partly due to Hamas' refusal to hold elections in Gaza, and the problems that would arise from holding elections in the West Bank alone. Another issue in question is whether East Jerusalem would participate in the elections.

Additionally, Fatah is currently refusing to name a candidate to take Abbas' place. Senior Fatah officials say they expect Abbas to retract his statement and run for reelection, and that they hope his announcement will increase pressure on the U.S. administration to help Abbas do so.

The officials expect the U.S. administration to announce that East Jerusalem will be the capital of a future Palestinian state, and to stop trying to force Abbas to forgo his preconditions for returning to negotiations with Israel - that Israel freeze construction in the settlements.

If elections are held despite Abbas' refusal to run, this could lead to dramatic changes in the political constellation. Fatah's leadership could be left in an embarrassing position, because Abbas' legal replacement would be the speaker of the Palestinian parliament, Aziz Duek - one of Hamas' top figures in the West Bank.