Palestinians hold local elections in West Bank but not Gaza

Posted May 15, 2017

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.

However, since it seized control over the Gaza Strip in 2007, Hamas had refused to take part in any elections saying the internal division should be ended before holding local elections. But without Hamas in the running, many chose to stay home and election officials said turnout was far lower than usual.

In Nablus, the biggest West Bank city, turnout was only 20 percent; in Al Bireh, Ramallah's twin city, 28 percent; and Hebron, the second-largest West Bank city, 30 percent.

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".

Even then Fatah only managed convincing wins in a couple of cities, Jenin and Jericho, struggling to even field a list in a lot of cities and having to run joint lists with independents to try to get on the ballot.

Only 145 West Bank localities were up for vote, after the more than 200 others either failed to submit an electoral list or submitted only one, meaning automatic appointment, according to the Palestinian Central Election Commission. The last time Palestinians voted in local elections was 2012 when Hamas also boycotted the voting.

Around 11,000 security forces personnel had cast a vote on Thursday in early elections. Their failure to reconcile is seen as a major obstacle to any settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Polls were due to close at 7:00 pm and final results are expected on Sunday. What the results will actually mean remains unclear because of the boycott of the election by a number of hard-line parties including Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

More than 4,400 candidates are competing for 1,561 council seats. Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said it was Fatah who excluded Gaza and Hamas because they were not interested in partnership.