Published: Mon, May 15, 2017
World Media | By Joan Schultz

Palestinian West Bank local elections a test for Fatah party

Palestinian West Bank local elections a test for Fatah party

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah party is ahead in most of the West Bank's main cities after municipal elections that highlighted persistent divisions with its rival Hamas, latest results show.

The voting on Saturday only took place in the Fatah-controlled West Bank, and not in the Gaza Strip, which is run by Fatah's rival Hamas.

Turnout in the Palestinian local elections was about 50 percent, the Central Elections Commission (CEC) said after polls closed on Saturday.

Fatah lost in Hebron, notably, the largest city in the West Bank.

CEC chairman Hanna Nasser said at a press conference in Ramallah that turnout in the cities was much lower than in the villages.

The head of the Fatah list in Hebron, Tayseer Abu Sneineh, said their strategy was to pick "qualified candidates" from the tribes.

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.

Members of the Palestinian security service cast their ballot on Thursday.

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Although it won easily, the Fatah Party's poor showing as results were released on Sunday reflected public discontent towards Abbas.

The West Bank and Gaza have not participated in an election together since 2006, when Hamas swept Palestinian parliamentary polls, sparking a conflict that almost led to civil war in Gaza the following year.

More than a million Palestinians were registered to choose from among 4,400 candidates in a vote that was seen as yet another sign that reconciliation may be a long way off.

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. But with the rival movements disqualifying each other's candidates, Fatah made a decision to go forward with the elections in the West Bank alone in a bid to renew its legitimacy.

Subsequent efforts to hold the polls in both territories simultaneously were unsuccessful as the two parties failed to bridge their differences.

The Palestinian Central Elections Commission is now talking to Hamas about holding municipal elections in the Gaza Strip, AP reported.

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

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