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16,000 register to vote in Gaza

Feb. 11, 2013 9:13 P.M. (Updated: Feb. 14, 2013 6:27 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Around 16,000 people registered to vote on Monday in the Gaza Strip, a lower turnout than expected, the Central Elections Commission said.

Central Elections Commission spokesman Ola Salameh told Ma'an the low turnout was surprising given that Monday was the first day voters had been able to register in Gaza since 2005, but he said the registration process had run smoothly.

Some 257 registration centers will be open for one week to update the electoral roll in the Gaza Strip in preparation for parliamentary and presidential elections. No date has been set for a vote.

Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh met Monday with Central Elections Commission chief Hanna Nasser.

Nasser thanked Haniyeh and his Hamas government for their efforts to facilitate the commission's work, a statement from the premier's office said.

Meanwhile, Haniyeh expressed his confidence in the commission's work. His government had previously barred the electoral body from operating in Gaza.

"We want to make this step a beginning to end the split and to achieve reconciliation," Haniyeh said.

Hamas and Fatah met in Cairo to discuss reconciliation over the weekend, but reached no agreement on the formation of a unity government or on a revision of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

"The Cairo talks did not achieve the breakthrough that we had hoped for, but they did not collapse," said Haniyeh.

The voter registration process is due to be completed by Feb. 18 and, in theory, an election could then be called three months later.

The last parliamentary vote was held in 2006, when Hamas swept to power, ending the dominance of Fatah. The following civil war split Palestinians both geographically and politically.

Reuters contributed to this report.
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