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Hamas calls off election registration in Gaza

July 2, 2012 12:25 P.M. (Updated: July 3, 2012 4:16 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- A day before electoral registration was due to start in the Gaza Strip, the Hamas government announced on Monday it was calling off the process due to repression of its members in the West Bank.

The movement also cited the failure to begin registration for elections to the Palestine Liberation Organization parliament as a second reason for suspending registration in Gaza.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said the situation in the West Bank contradicts what was agreed in order to proceed with the reconciliation process between his party and Fatah, which governs the West Bank.

Regional director of the Central Elections Commission Jameel Al Khalidi confirmed that they have suspended Gaza operations after receiving an official letter from Hamas.

The commission was set to open registration centers across Gaza between July 3 and 14, the first such initiative to update the registers since the last local elections were held in January 2005.

Electoral registration was slated as the first step to implementing the long-stalled reconciliation deal between the factions signed in May 2011.

Hamas' notice it is suspending voter registration once again dashes hopes the parties will fulfill their commitment to new elections in order to unite Gaza and the West Bank.

Abu Zuhri said "security repression" of political factions, and particularly Hamas representatives, in the West Bank was impeding registration and supervision of the poll, which is taking place in the Gaza Strip, without elaborating on the link between them.

He also said parties had committed to start registration for the Palestinian National Council, the legislative body of the PLO, in tandem with elections in the Palestinian territory, but this had not taken place.

Regulations for the upcoming PNC vote had been agreed by a PLO reform committee meeting in Amman in early June, and an international campaign has been launched to register Palestinians for the PNC elections, expected later in 2012.

Abu Zuhri continued that Hamas was concerned about the confusion surrounding appointment of oversight bodies for the registration process, and they need additional time to prepare for monitoring the registration.

Without progress in electoral registration, Fatah and Hamas are expected to revert to the same impasse that has plagued Palestinian politics since their violent split in 2007.

Foreign Minister in the Fatah-led PA government Riyad al-Malki told Russian Interfax news agency on Monday that the joint government of technocrats, another key principle of the reconciliation, would not be formed until electoral registration completed, and the parties agree an election date.

Leaders of the parties were expected to meet 12 days ago to select cabinet ministers for the unity government.

Ahmed Assaf, a Fatah spokesman in the West Bank, accused Hamas of retreating from Egyptian-brokered unity deals.

"It means Hamas did not want an election to be held and did not want to move ahead toward reconciliation," Assaf said.

Hani Habib, a political analyst in Gaza, called Hamas's move "a real setback. It bolsters doubts by the Palestinian public that neither side has good intentions to end the division."

Reuters contributed to this report
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