Elections to the PNC have been officially agreed to numerous times since 2012 by all of the major Palestinian political factions, but an actual date for them has yet to be set. The registration drive advances the likelihood of such elections taking place by overcoming the most immediate political and logistical obstacles to conducting elections.
The primary voter register was to be collectively managed by the civic associations leading the drive, along with commonly agreed independent civic Palestinian institutions. The register would therefore be considered a collective Palestinian entity held in trust on a custodial basis, working on a strict democratic and transparent mandate, and with appropriate protective protocols for its management. This was to ensure that the primary voter register for PNC elections will be safe, and the data secure. Any voter register would be limited in its purpose for use in future PNC elections. Until such elections were actually convened, and a properly established commission created that meets the democratic rights and needs of the Palestinian people, the database must remain the possession of the Palestinian people themselves. A collective custodianship (waqf) would be carried out through the civic associations that have worked throughout the drive to unite the Palestinian people and to make each Palestinian voice count equally.
The civic registration drive for PNC elections was organised by Palestinians for Palestinians. Most of those working in it are volunteers. The costs have been sponsored, in small size donations, by a large number of philanthropic and patriotic members of the Palestinian business community. Local registration drives were to be funded by local Palestinian communities and camps, with fundraising assistance provided by Facilitation Office volunteers.
The PLO is responsible for convening elections for the Palestinian people, to finance them, and to arrange for international agencies such as the UN or other international bodies to manage and implement them. The PLO’s responsibility in this regard derives from the obligation to respect, protect, and promote the collective right of self-determination of the entire Palestinian people, of which they are the sole, internationally recognized representative. Although they have called numerous times for PNC elections to be held, until now they have not taken the first step towards practically arranging these elections, such as voter registration. In this context, the Palestinian people themselves, as the source of Palestinian sovereignty, can implement this crucial first step to enfranchise all currently unregistered Palestinian voters, which is the majority of the people. This practice is indeed the norm in many democracies where the task of registering to vote for elections is carried out by the people themselves through civil society and civic voter drives. Achieving practical progress though the voter registration drive campaign will enable the relevant national and international institutions to take up their responsibilities to convene and facilitate these elections.
The civic drive was to be run locally by Palestinian organisers and associations wherever Palestinians are, using a unified, secure, and internationally recognised registration mechanism. It was to be coordinated nationally through the Facilitation Office (FO), which provided technical and other assistance to local organisers, camps, and communities, with facilitation and support from Palestinian embassies where required.
There is, at present, no scheduled date for voter registration to take place due to ongoing delays in securing official approval. As soon as this is secured, however, the civic registration drive can resume its work in registering Palestinians to vote. The registration drive was designed to take place through a secure registration system which local associations and groups will use in their area, relying on trained volunteers, and taking place wherever large numbers of Palestinians live.
A civic registration drive is a voter registration undertaken by individuals and civic organizations rather than governmental bodies, states, or international agencies. In many countries it is a common method of registering citizens to vote. Both registering and voting is a voluntary activity.
The registration mechanism was created so that, even if you have no documentation identifying you as Palestinian, you can still register by using the vouching system. Vouching is a social documentation method used in out-of- country and refugee voting across the world, to compensate for the loss of documents that refugees commonly face, so they can participate fully in national political life.
The civic registration drive for PNC elections was created between 2010 and 2013, but is not operational at present. However the registration mechanism can be revived at short notice as soon as there is approval by the relevant political actors. When operational, the registration mechanism was intended to be run by Palestinian associations in refugee camps and communities in various locations across the world. Registration times and locations in each area were to be advertised at least four weeks before registration, with information provided for how to register at the announced center near you. Registration would be conducted by trained volunteers who register voters using a safe and secure electronic registration mechanism that allows for the immediate verification of voters. All that would be needed is to come to a registration center during the announced times, bringing with you your identification documents.
A national consensus exists about the need for the PLO to undergo urgent democratic reform so it can better reflect the national strategies and political positions of the entire Palestinian people. The required reforms lie in two areas. First there are the elections laws and guidelines under which democratic PNC elections will themselves be convened. Second are the reforms to the institution itself. Electoral laws and guidelines are the responsibility of a future electoral commission for the PNC, which has yet to be formed. Such a commission must be informed and guided by popular debate and democratic deliberations on how such elections should be convened as to best serve the Palestinian people everywhere. Institutional reforms of the PLO, such as amending the National Charter, should be implemented by a directly elected parliament representing the entire Palestinian people. Only such a parliament would possess the legitimate and popular mandate to undertake this work. The Palestinian people, along with their representatives, can then freely determine their national liberation strategies.
Because the PNC is the highest legislative body representing all Palestinians, all Palestinians are entitled to vote in its elections (except for those already registered to vote through the PLC). A Palestinian is entitled to register as a voter for PNC elections in the civic registration drive, if:
- S/he is not already registered in the voter register of the PNA in the 1967 occupied Palestinian territories; and,
- S/he is of voting age at the time of the elections.
- S/he was born within the borders of Palestine as defined during the British Mandate era, or was entitled to acquire the Palestinian nationality under the applicable laws at that time;
- S/he was born in the 1967 occupied Palestinian territory and is not already registered;
- One of his/her ancestors falls under the application of paragraph (a) above, irrespective of where s/he was born;
- S/he is a spouse of a Palestinian.
The call for direct elections to the PNC is based on years of campaigning and organising amongst Palestinians across the world, seeking a representative national institution that reflects the demands and positions of its people. It is based on three components: (1) a popular demand around which Palestinian communities in the homeland and shatat have mobilized, (2) the nationally expressed consensus and (3) the official policy of the PLO, and the National Reconciliation Committee comprised of all the parties. The basis for the demand lies in the PLO’s own fundamental laws; national positions such as the Prisoners Document of 2006, the various agreements of the National Reconciliation Committee in Cairo in 2010, 2011, and 2012; and the demands from hundreds of public meetings convened by Palestinians in the shatat, during earlier refugee mobilisations from 2003 to 2006.
After the Oslo Accords of 1993, the PLO Executive Committee negotiated the establishment of the Palestinian Authority, later known as the Palestine National Authority (PA or PNA). It was designed as a short-term, interim administrative entity under the authority of the PLO, charged with limited governance of certain areas of the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip that were placed under Palestinian responsibility. The PLO remains the sole legitimate representative of the entire Palestinian people, and the official representative of their rights at the UN and other international fora. In 1996 the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) was created for the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and those elected to it were incorporated into the structure of the PNC, and represent that geographic sector of the Palestinian people in it. Most Palestinians eligible to vote in these areas registered with the Central Elections Commission (CEC), whose mandate is restricted to register Palestinians in the areas of Palestine occupied in 1967. There is now a comprehensive register for Palestinian voters for PLC elections in the Palestinian territories occupied in 1967, but no voter register for Palestinians outside those areas, where the majority of Palestinians currently live.
The PNC is the parliament of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO). It is the supreme legislative body representing the Palestinian people both inside and outside of Palestine. Its role is to represent all Palestinians in their current locations: the Palestinians of the shatat, as well as Palestinians within historic Palestine. It is where the decisions on national strategies and priorities are debated and made. The Charter of the PLO stipulates that there should be direct elections to the PNC, although they have never taken place.