Palestinians hold local elections in West Bank but not Gaza

Lucy Bush
May 15, 2017

Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine are boycotting the vote.

The vote provided Palestinians a rare chance to cast ballots after over a decade without presidential or legislative elections, and Saturday's election was seen as a test for Abbas' embattled and nepotism-tainted party. The West Bank and Gaza have not voted together since 2006, when Hamas swept Palestinian parliamentary elections. Results will be announced Sunday.

Official figures put turnout at 53.4 percent, or almost the same as local elections in the West Bank in 2012, according to electoral commission chief Hanna Nasser. Even without the participation of the rival Hamas movement, which rules the Gaza Strip, Fatah is expected to face stiff challenges from some independent candidates with large tribal backing.

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Hamas said The Palestinian Authority had made a unilateral decision to go ahead with the vote before an agreement on a legal framework had been reached, following an October ruling from the Palestinian High Court that found the judiciary in Gaza did not have the necessary "guarantees" in place for an election - a decision denounced by Hamas as "political".

More than 4,400 candidates are competing for 1,561 council seats.

The impact of the Hamas boycott was visible in Hebron and Al Bireh in the West Bank, said Harb, "because these two cities are known Hamas strongholds". East Jerusalem's 300,000 residents didn't take part in the elections.

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Abbas's presidential term was meant to end in 2009, but he has remained in office with no elections organised.

The Palestinian Central Elections Commission is now talking to Hamas about holding municipal elections in the Gaza Strip, AP reported. Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said it was Fatah who excluded Gaza and Hamas because they were not interested in partnership. According to Reuters, it's the first democratic exercise in years.

The Fatah Party of President Mahmoud Abbas has "won" the local Palestinian elections, which comes as little surprise since they were largely the only faction taking part.

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Samir Beshari, a mechanic leaning on a walking stick as he exited a polling station in central Ramallah, said his choice "wasn't just political", as above all he believed "the winners should look after the city and all its inhabitants".

Other reports by Info About Network

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