|RCHRS Conducts Panel Discussion:Student Council Elections in Gaza Strip Universities: To Where?”|
Ramallah Center for Human Rights Studies (RCHRS) held a panel discussion on March 28, 2011 entitled "Student Council Elections in Gaza Strip Universities: To Where?" The panel was attended by a group of students, academics, and other interested and was held in the RCHRS hall in Gaza City.
Talal Abu Rukba, coordinator of the Center's activities in Gaza, initiated the meeting explaining the importance of the democratic process in Palestinian universities as it plays an influential role in shaping the personality of the Palestinian student and teaching democratic culture and values which must be practiced in university life in order to progress to local society later on. He stressed that the absence of such a democratic right for Palestinian universities in the Gaza Strip constitutes a violation of educational rights and academic freedoms.
Abed Hammad, Secretary of the Student Unity Bloc - the student faction corresponding to the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine DFLP- emphasized that the student factions have came a long way in terms of incorporating the principle of proportional representation and the common electoral law within all universities. But he also pointed out that obstacles are still in control of the implementation and application of elections in the universities on the agreed dates.
He added that this was due to reasons relating to the demands of the two major factions, the Islamic Bloc (Hamas) and the Shabibah (Fateh Youth).
He pointed out that the stance of the Student Unity Bloc demands the formation of committees of preparatory coalitions in all universities in the absence of elections in order to create an atmosphere suitable for elections.
In turn, Shamikh Badra, representative of the Progressive Student Union Bloc - the student counterpart to the People's Party- called for the need to expedite the election process for student councils, as a first step towards creating an atmosphere for ending division and restoring democratic life. He added that the student movement is a historic opportunity to achieve that, and that there is no justification for obstructing the holding of elections.
For his part, Sakhar Hamid, representing the Shabibah (Fateh) as Secretary of the student groups in Gaza Strip Universities, explained that the Shabibah demands establishing the principle of proportional representation in elections. Moreover, the Shabibah expresses its desire to obtain guarantees to ensure the functioning of elections in tandem with all other universities in the Gaza Strip and to ensure freedom of opinion and expression and free student work.
Hani Maqbal, Secretary of the Islamic Bloc (Hamas), noted that the faction supports the principle of proportional representation for all student factions, pointing out that in the past fifteen years there has never been an agreement between factions to take a united stance in the electoral system, and pointing out that the demand of the Islamic Bloc is meant to provide guarantees and a safe environment appropriate for all universities in the country, in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank alike.
Mohammad Al-Jadba, coordinator of the Progressive Student Labor Front, noted that student council elections constitute a democratic right for all university students. The Labor Front also emphasized the urgency for elections at the soonest time possible in accordance with the principle of proportional representation in all universities.
He expressed that the Labor Front rejects all obstacles to these elections, whether the reasons are political or partisan, and that the restraints only reflect the narrow partisan views that reject the functioning of the democratic process.
At the end of the meeting, the participants identified that elections add to the legitimacy and strength of the student councils as they currently are, and that everyone must work for the advancement of the student situation and re-directing it towards enhancing democratic values within Palestinian universities.