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Abbas is 85 and in the 15th year of a 4-year term. Abbas Momani/AFP via Getty

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas published a decree on Friday announcing the dates for parliamentary and presidential elections in the Palestinian Authority.

Why it matters: This is the first time since 2009 that such a decree has been published, and that election was ultimately called off. The last presidential elections took place in 2005, with Abbas winning, and the last parliamentary elections took place in 2006, with Hamas winning.

Driving the news: The parliamentary elections are scheduled for on May 22 and the presidential elections for July 31 — though those plans could still fall through.

  • Abbas met today with the chairman of the central election committee and instructed him to make preparations for elections in the West Bank, in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip and in Israeli-controlled East Jerusalem.
  • Last week, the head of Hamas' political bureau, Ismail Haniyeh, told Abbas in a letter that the movement would agree to hold elections as part of a national reconciliation process.

Flashback: After Hamas won the 2006 elections, the Palestinian Authority deteriorated into a deep political crisis between Hamas and Fatah, Abbas' party.

  • The U.S. and other world powers announced they would not cooperate with Hamas until it recognized Israel, denounced terrorism and committed to previous agreements with Israel.
  • Hamas refused to adhere to those conditions and continues to reject them to this day. The U.S., U.K., EU and other Western governments still boycott Hamas, and the U.S. designates the group as a terror organization.
  • In 2007, a civil war broke out in the Gaza Strip and Hamas took over the area by force.

The big picture: Abbas’ announcement comes after numerous failed attempts at reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas, and after several plans to hold elections fell through.

  • Abbas, who is 85 and in the 15th year of his four-year term, is not very popular. Recent public opinion polls indicate he could lose to a Hamas candidate.

What’s next: Many analysts are skeptical about whether this election will actually take place.

  • One of the main stumbling blocs is East Jerusalem. If Israel doesn’t allow allow voting there, the election could be canceled.

Correction: This story has been updated to reflect the fact that Abbas last published a decree announcing elections in 2009, rather than 2005. Those elections did not take place.

Go deeper

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker will not seek re-election in 2022

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) speaking during a press conference in November 2021. Photo: Jonathan Wiggs/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R), a moderate who typically ranks as one of the nation's most popular governors, said Wednesday that he and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito (R) will not seek third terms in 2022.

Why it matters: The decision leaves the gubernatorial race wide open and will likely affect multiple down-ballot races next year. Baker was expected to be the front-runner had he joined the race.

3 hours ago - Health

CDC prepares tougher testing rules for international travelers

Travelers with their luggage arrive at a COVID-19 testing location at the airport in Los Angeles, Calif., on Nov. 23, 2021. Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday night that it is working to impose stricter testing requirements for international travelers due to the spread of the new Omicron variant.

The big picture: The new rules would require all international travelers, regardless of vaccination status, to show a negative test taken a day before their flight to the U.S. Currently, the CDC says fully vaccinated travelers are allowed to show a test taken no more than three days before their departure, AP reports.

Republicans threaten to shut down government over vaccine mandates

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) in the Capitol in November 2020. Photo: Joshua Roberts/Getty Images

Conservative Republicans in the House and Senate are planning to force a government shutdown Friday to deny funding needed to enforce the Biden administration's vaccine mandates on the private sector, according to Politico.

Why it matters: Congress has until the end of the week to pass a stopgap measure to extend funding into 2022, though objection from a small group of Republicans could shut down the government.