The 2006 Palestinian legislative elections witnessed the phenomenon of spiteful voting, where those angry with Fatah and its ruling, and those who were disgruntled with the corruption of the Palestinian Authority (PA), cast their votes in favour of Hamas.
Even ballot boxes, placed in mainly Fatah locations, contained votes of Fatah supporters and many Christians who voted for the Islamic movement – not out of love for Hamas – but rather to spite Fatah and the secular national movement.
This situation will change in the 2021 elections, even though a team of observers still believes that the phenomenon of spiteful voting can emerge again, where the voters of Gaza, tired of Hamas and its harsh years of rule, could vote for Fatah.
Some believe that this is the reason behind Gaza’s increased interest in registering to vote, linking it to previous occasions for Fatah, where masses of the Gaza Strip did the same. This is true, but maybe only partially.
In 2006, the Palestinian people had not yet experienced the rule of Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. Today, however, for more than a quarter of a century, they have experienced the rule of Fatah and the PA, and there is no way to convince the crowds to go back and vote for it again.
Others say that Hamas may lose the Gaza Strip, as it has managed to leave a large portion of Gaza’s population angry, resentful and aggrieved by the de facto authority. Despite this, they do not rule out the possibility of Hamas winning in the West Bank or even in Jerusalem.
Daily events of the people of the Gaza Strip, the stories of Hamas and its authority and some of its strange decisions in its endeavour to implement Sharia law are all broadcast to the West Bank and the rest of the world.
There is also the Israeli factor that must be studied to see if the people of the West Bank will gamble by electing Hamas, thus sharing the fate of the people of Gaza, and whether Israel will allow Hamas candidates to join the Legislative Council.
Spiteful voting is still possible, even in the 2021 elections, but it may take different forms this time. Spiteful voting may actually work against both parties, Fatah and Hamas, provided that independent electoral lists, national figures, perhaps leftist forces, angry Fatah members and rebellious Islamic figures not affiliated with any movement come forward.
Such electoral lists, if carefully formed, could attract the attention of a wide range of Palestinian voters who are tired of both Fatah and Hamas, who want renewal and yearn to see new faces and listen to new voices.
There are increasing electoral activities in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, news of which is not easy for either Fatah or Hamas to digest. So, if Fatah insists on running for the elections with a unified list, and insists on punishing all those who deviate from the movement, then it would be paving the road for independent electoral lists to gather the votes of all angry voters, voters seeking new blood, spiteful voters and the disgruntled. It is not wise and probably premature to drop this surprise element in the Palestinian legislative elections.
For new forces, parties, independent figures and movements all from outside the official factions to be involved in the elections next May is an indication that Palestinian society and its people are alive.
What is essential, is that these electoral lists continue their way to the end, bypassing the authoritarian attempts of enticement and intimidation in the Gaza Strip, as well as in the West Bank. Perhaps the next Legislative Council will be a platform for Palestinian pluralism.