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PA announces local election date, Hamas condemns

July 10, 2012 4:22 P.M. (Updated: July 18, 2012 12:29 P.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma’an) -- The Palestinian Authority cabinet agreed on Tuesday to hold local elections on October 20 in both the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Ministers tasked the Central Election Commission with preparation for the poll. Hamas immediately warned the decision would "affect reconciliation negatively."

Gaza government spokesman Taher Nunu said the West Bank cabinet had violated the reconciliation deal between their Hamas party and West Bank rulers Fatah.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said Fatah is responsible for all the implications of holding elections.

Last week, cabinet ministers said they decided to go ahead with the vote after Hamas suspended the work of the commission in the Gaza Strip.

The commission was set to begin updating voter rolls in the coastal enclave on Tuesday, in preparation for national elections slated for this year.

A PA cabinet statement said it asked local government minister Khaled Qawasmi to prepare for local polls "as a national necessity, in order not to have one party hold hostage citizens rights to chose their representatives."

Presidential, parliamentary and local government elections are all overdue since Fatah and Hamas split bitterly over Hamas' electoral success in 2006.

The Fatah-led West Bank government has repeatedly attempted to initiate local elections, to the outcry of Hamas who insist the vote must be conducted nationally, and thus coordinated with them.

The PA says local pressure is mounting to revitalize the local councils, with ministers citing "difficulties resulting from expiration period of elected councils which cause weaknesses in performance."

As part of a May 2011 reconciliation deal, the parties pledged to prepare for fresh elections to unite the Gaza Strip and West Bank, under rival administrations since 2007.

The deal has repeatedly faltered as the parties spar over its implementation.

In the latest chapter, Hamas called off electoral registration in the Gaza Strip last week Monday, a day before the process was set to start, citing political partiality concerns and highlighting repression of its members in the West Bank.
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