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PA announces schedule for local elections in West Bank

Aug. 2, 2011 10:44 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 4, 2011 5:13 P.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- The Palestinian Central Elections Committee on Tuesday announced its schedule for the upcoming local council vote, which will be held in the West Bank on October 22.

The ministry said in a statement that registration would take place between August 13 - 17. A 10-day candidacy period would begin on September 6, the ministry added.

The electoral campaign is scheduled for October 8 - 20, and results of the election will be announced 24 hours after voting closes, the statement added.

The elections will only be held in the West Bank. The Fatah-led PA blamed Hamas for blocking elections in the Gaza Strip.

"We condemn Hamas for preventing the Central Elections Committee from fulfilling its mission in Gaza according to the law, which makes holding elections there within the limited time left unrealizable," the PA said in a statement last week.

"The government has decided to hold the municipal elections at the scheduled date in the northern governorates," it said, referring to the West Bank.

The issue was the subject of a special cabinet session earlier on Tuesday after the CEC sent a letter to say it was proving impossible to prepare for elections in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, the official said.

"We sent a letter to the government to say we cannot work in Gaza to prepare for the elections.

"Until now, Hamas has prevented the elections committee from doing its work in Gaza. Our staff cannot work because our offices are closed and they have confiscated our cars," he said.

But Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri pointed the finger of blame at Fatah for not making good on a pledge to reform the CEC under terms of a reconciliation deal inked between the two former rivals in early May.

"The Central Election Commission should be formed by consensus among the Palestinian factions under the reconciliation agreement in Cairo," he told AFP.

"This commission has no authority to hold elections as Hamas was not consulted and it is perfectly normal that we do not agree to cooperate with it," he said.

Local elections had originally been scheduled for July 9 but following a surprise reconciliation deal between President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah movement and rival faction Hamas which was signed in early May, the date was put back to October 22.

At the time, local development minister Khaled Al-Qawasmeh said the decision was taken on the advice of the CEC, which said it would have been unable to organize simultaneous elections in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip by July.

The last time the Palestinians went to the polls was for parliamentary elections in 2006, which Hamas won by a landslide.

New parliamentary and presidential elections were due to be held in January 2010, but the Palestinian Authority abandoned efforts to hold a vote after Hamas refused to organize one in Gaza.

AFP contributed to this report.
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