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Abbas postpones local elections in West Bank

Aug. 22, 2011 2:53 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 24, 2011 10:14 A.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma’an) -- President Mahmoud Abbas issued a decree on Monday postponing local West Bank elections scheduled for October 22.

The presidential decree postpones elections "until appropriate circumstances" exist, the statement said, and gives time "to provide the Central Elections Commission with the opportunity to continue preparations for holding elections in all Palestinian districts."

The postponement will also provide the "appropriate environment" for efforts to end "division and reaching reconciliation and national unity," the decree said.

Local elections were last postponed in July 2011 to give more time to a reconciliation agreement between rival parties Hamas -- which rules the Gaza Strip and refuses elections until the electoral commission is reformed -- and Fatah in the West Bank, signed in May.

Rescheduled elections were planned for the West Bank only, with officials saying Hamas was blocking efforts to prepare for the October vote in Gaza.

The 315 local councils in the West Bank and Gaza Strip have been run without any electoral process since July 2010, with repeated postponements as the ongoing rivalry between authorities in the two territories lingers on.

Implementation of the terms of the May deal have been put to the side until after Ramadan, officials have said.

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 had been 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.

Bassam As-Salihi, the secretary-general of the Palestinian People's Party, condemned Monday's decision to postpone elections, saying it was wrong and illegally taken.
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