Tuesday, May 21
Latest News
  1. Cluster of incendiary balloons land in southern Israel
  2. Palestinian FM condemns Germany's vote to define BDS as 'anti-Semitic'
  3. Israeli forces forcibly evict Muslim worshipers from Al-Aqsa
  4. Israeli forces detain 14-year-old Palestinian near Ramallah
  5. Erekat: Deviation from peace terms of reference doomed to fail
  6. Iceland's Hatari shocks Eurovision with Palestinian flags
  7. UNRWA: 4 Palestinian children killed in attack on Syria refugee camp
  8. Israeli forces attack, injure Palestinian youths in Jerusalem
  9. Germany to condemn BDS movement as 'anti-Semitic'
  10. FM to UK Parliament: Two-state solution could reach point of no return

Voting begins for security forces in West Bank

Oct. 18, 2012 12:41 P.M. (Updated: Oct. 20, 2012 11:37 A.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Palestinian Authority security forces cast their ballots on Thursday in the first day of voting for municipal elections in the West Bank.

Central Elections Commission official Hisham Khail told Ma’an that voting for the security forces began at 7 a.m. and will end 7 p.m. Khail said there were 11 polling stations where they could vote.

Security services and police are allowed to vote before the election so they can secure the voting process on election day, Oct. 20.

Streets and roundabouts across the West Bank are plastered with posters of hopeful candidates promising everything from cleaner streets and better transport to jobs and free Wi-Fi.

The familiar old Palestinian slogans calling for liberation and resistance are noticeably absent, as voters focus on their immediate needs at a time of austerity, with cash-strapped authorities struggling to pay public sector salaries.

"This is an exciting opportunity to make changes and see new people enter the local councils," said Samer Hamdan, working in a coffee shop in Ramallah, the West Bank's administrative center.

But, as has happened so often in the past, President Mahmoud Abbas's nationalist Fatah movement has failed to present a united face, with party rivals presenting their own candidates.

"The sound basis for any election to take place is a healthy, political atmosphere ... which is clearly lacking here," said Issam Abdeen, a legal consultant at Palestinian Human Rights group al-Haq.

Hamas won control of many municipal councils the last time the municipal election was held, in 2005. It went on the next year to sweep legislative elections, to the shock of the Fatah old guard.

Hamas is not participating in this year's election due to disagreements with Fatah, who it has accused of harassing its West Bank members.

The continued divide between Hamas and Fatah has proved a source of upset and anger for ordinary Palestinians, who fear it undermines their fight for an independent state.

"I don't understand how we can have elections in just half the territory," said Neda Ahmad, a young woman walking through central Ramallah. "I don't even know who's running."

With Hamas not standing, analysts say the best way to measure support for the party will be to look at voter turnout. Last time around, turnout was estimated at some 80 percent, so a sharp fall-off would show Hamas voters had stayed at home.

Whatever the turnout, Fatah could still lose what should have been an easy victory.

It is being challenged by an array of independent candidates, including the West Bank's first all-female political party which is standing in the city of Hebron. It also faces well-known Fatah dissidents, who have put themselves forward after failing to book a berth on the official party lists.

"In this election, a 'test drive' for later elections, Fatah has failed to appear unified, and this will weaken the party," said political analyst Khalil Shaheen.

The decision to hold a municipal election just in the West Bank is a tacit admission that the landlocked territory is, to all intents and purposes, already a distinct entity from Gaza.

However, a decision to hold national votes for a new president or parliament, although already overdue, would effectively seal the separation - a step neither Abbas nor Hamas wants to take at this stage.

That means the municipal vote might be the last election the Palestinians can vote in for quite some time.

Reuters contributed to this report.
Powered By: HTD Technologies
Ma'an News Agency
All rights reserved © 2005-2015