Palestinians hold local elections in West Bank but not Gaza

West Bank votes in polls underlining Palestinian split
Palestinian film festival opens in Gaza
Author

15 May, 2017

Palestinians choose mayors and local councils in communities across the West Bank on Saturday, a rare chance to cast ballots after more than a decade without presidential or legislative elections.

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah party was ahead in most of the West Bank's main cities after municipal elections, results showed Sunday.

The Palestinians have been divided between rival governments since Hamas defeated Fatah in the 2006 legislative elections and drove the latter out of the Gaza Strip the following year, leaving Abbas in control only of the Palestinian Authority autonomy government in parts of the West Bank.

The ruling party managed to win 11 of 15 seats in Nablus, another major city, but only after forming alliances with Islamist candidates.

The vote is boycotted by Palestinian group Hamas, which said the inter-Palestinian reconciliation should be achieved first before holding the polls.

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Last year, the two parties were poised to compete in elections in both the West Bank and Gaza Strip, before each side disqualified the other's candidate.

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Abbas, whose term was meant to end in 2009 but who has remained in office, has grown unpopular among Palestinians, but he remains their leader in the eyes of the world.

Ramallah, the Palestinian political capital, saw turnout of less than 40%.

"The commission will meet with Hamas in Gaza to see if we can hold supplementary elections there so that we would have elections in all parts of the country", he said.

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. The 300,000 residents of east Jerusalem were not voting Saturday.

Rival lists also looked to the same electorate.

There are about 5 million Palestinians listed as refugees by the United Nations (UNRWA) who are not permitted to vote in local elections but will be allowed to vote in national elections when they are held.

In Hebron, the West Bank's largest city and a Hamas stronghold, Abbas' party managed to claim seven of 15 seats. Nearly 50% of eligible voters turned out on Saturday.


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