Palestinian court orders local elections only in West Bank Hamas and Fatah to take part in first polls since 2006, but not in Gaza Strip; date has yet to be set
October 3, 2016, 1:44 pm
A Palestinian man casts his vote in the municipal elections in the West Bank town of Al-Bireh on October 20, 2012. (Issam Rimawi/Flash90)
The Palestinian high court on Monday ordered municipal elections to be held only in the West Bank and not in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, though a new date for the suspended polls was not set.
The ruling could bring to an end hopes that the municipal elections would be the first since 2006 in which both Islamist movement Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah, which runs the West Bank, would participate.
Palestinian municipal polls scheduled for October 8 were postponed last month after a court delayed a ruling on whether to hold the first vote since 2006 to include both Fatah and Hamas.
The Palestinian high court in the Fatah-led West Bank put off its ruling until October 3, only five days before the scheduled date for the elections.
In response, the electoral commission confirmed that the October 8 date “is no longer applicable.” It set no new date.
On September 8, the court suspended the elections following disputes between the rival Fatah and Hamas movements over candidate lists.
It had left open the possibility that they could be re-scheduled for the same date if the dispute was resolved, but Wednesday’s announcement by the electoral commission was widely anticipated.
Gaza-ruling Hamas, considered a terror group by Israel and other Western countries, boycotted the last Palestinian municipal elections in 2012, but it was due to participate this year.
The October vote was to choose municipal councils in some 416 cities and towns in Gaza and the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
It is seen by some analysts as a test of whether Hamas and Fatah can take a significant step towards reconciliation.Their divisions are viewed as among the key obstacles in efforts to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts, at a standstill for more than two years.
The Palestinian parliament has not met since 2007, the year Hamas, buoyed by its 2006 election victory, seized the Gaza Strip by force, driving out Fatah in a week of deadly clashes.
Hamas caused a shock by winning the majority of seats in the 2006 polls, which were seen by some as the most transparent to be held in the Palestinian territories.
But the international community refused to accept a Hamas government, demanding the Islamist group first renounce violence, recognize Israel, and respect agreements signed between Palestinian and Israeli leaders.