When Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called for elections in January, the news was met with profound skepticism. Abbas has previously declared elections without going through with them, and under his 16-year rule, the Palestinian Authority has become more corrupt and authoritarian, shedding doubt over whether the elections would be free, fair, or democratic. Indeed, with the looming threat of losing seats, Abbas is expected to announce the indefinite postponement of legislative elections, originally set to take place on May 22.
Even if elections are canceled again, the limited political organization that has taken place since they were decreed underscores just how much Palestinian political space has shrunk in the last two decades. This is largely a result of the PA’s restrictions and abuses on the ground, including the intimidation and harassment of journalists and activists, as well as the arbitrary detention and systematic torture of Palestinians who are critical of their government.
More recently, the PA has been relentlessly clamping down on dissenters in yet another space: the internet.