BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The first elections held in the West Bank for six years reflect how frustrated Palestinians are with their political system and ruling party Fatah, political observers said Sunday.
The poll was held on Saturday in 92 of the 353 municipalities in the West Bank. Other seats were uncontested, creating automatic winners, or failed to register any candidates in this round, and will hold polls next month.
Preliminary results indicate that Fatah were beaten in Ramallah, Nablus and Jenin. In Hebron, Fatah and its opponents both claimed victory. The Central Elections Commission will announce official elections results later Sunday.
The highest voter turnout was in the Salfit district, where 68.5 percent of people voted. Reflecting the clout of Hamas' boycott call, voter turnout in Hebron, an Islamist political bastion, was just 33.7 percent.
Political analyst Talal Okel said low turnout was a result of frustration with the parties and the government. The CEC said just over 54 percent of eligible voters cast votes on Saturday.
Fatah has not benefited from the election, as they repeated many of the same mistakes that lost the party the 2006 parliamentary elections, including lack of consensus over candidates, he said.
Up to 27 Fatah members were expelled from the party in the run-up to elections for running in non-Fatah lists.
Analyst Mukhaymar Abu Saada said Fatah's continuing problem is a lack of discipline, in that candidates do not follow centrally-ordered directions, and form opposing lists, he explained.
PLO leader Hanan Ashrawi, who is not a Fatah member, said the election was surprising, and shows that many voters chose independents to punish Fatah. Fatah also failed to nominate good candidates, she said.
The vote also showed the divide between urban and rural Palestine, with much higher turnouts in the cities, Ashrawi noted.
Hamas' boycott of the polls did not have much impact, she added. Fatah leader and Jenin Governor Talal Dweikat pointed out that despite Hamas' absence, the turnout was not far below participation rates in the last local elections in 2005.
Dweikat said Fatah must learn from its mistakes in this poll. The elections are a victory for the Palestinian community, even if Fatah lost some districts like Jenin and Nablus, the governor said.
Palestinian National Initiative MP Mustafa Al-Barghouti said while he regrets the election was not also carried out in Gaza, it was a necessary step for long overdue local accountability.
Fatah's defeat in several big cities just highlights the failure of the reconciliation process between Fatah and Hamas, he said.
Palestinian people do not trust its leadership or government, al-Barghouti said.