Palestinians hold local elections in West Bank but not Gaza

Palestinians hold local elections in West Bank but not Gaza

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

Gaza is not having local elections after Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, has chose to boycott them.

The 2006 elections saw a relatively high turnout rate, which sat at 77.6 percent and gave Hamas 74 out of 132 seats in the Palestinian parliament.

In Hebron, the West Bank's largest city and long considered more Hamas-friendly territory, Fatah won just seven of 15 council seats despite the Hamas boycott, the Associated Press reported.

In just two cities, Jenin and Jericho, did Fatah win an outright victory without support from other participating factions.

Hanna Nasser, chairman of the Palestinian election commission, said numerous contenders were from Fatah, while in some villages "clans and families" had decided on the candidate lists. The last time Palestinians voted in local elections was 2012 when Hamas also boycotted the voting.

The elections were first announced in 2016, but judicial interventions by both parties in Gaza and the West Bank continued to block announced dates, postponing the elections.

The failure of Hamas and Fatah to reconcile is seen as a major obstacle to any settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

They also come more than 10 years after Hamas won the majority of seats in the parliament, which left the global community to deal with the implications of a Palestinian nationalist and Islamist movement finding its feet within the mainstream Palestinian political machine. East Jerusalem's 300,000 residents didn't take part in the elections.

Following Saturday's vote, Palestinian Central Elections Commission chairman Hanna Nasser said he would try to persuade Hamas to allow elections in all of Gaza's 25 localities later this year.

"The election decision serves only Fatah, and it will never serve the Palestinian democracy", says Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum.

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

A man looks for his name on a voter's list at a polling station in the West Bank city of Nablus, Saturday, May 13, 2017.

Months of political and legal wrangling preceded Saturday's elections.

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