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Hamas announces participation in Palestinian local elections for the first time in a decade

July 16, 2016 11:04 A.M. (Updated: July 18, 2016 6:43 P.M.)
CEC Chairman Hanna Nasser and Deputy Head of Hamas Ismail Haniyeh
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The Hamas movement announced its intention to participate in local elections in October across the occupied Palestinian territory, according to a statement released by the group on Friday, paving the way for elections to be held in the besieged Gaza Strip for the first time in a decade.

Hamas declared its commitment to successful local elections in the statement, and reiterated the importance of holding local elections in both the occupied West Bank and Gaza “in a way that serves the interests of our people.”

The statement also stressed the need to further develop democratic principles and processes in the Palestinian territory. Hamas cited fair elections as the most productive way to ensure democracy in the territory. 

Director of the Central Election Commission's (CEC) regional office in the Gaza Strip Jamil al-Khalidi confirmed to Ma'an on Sunday that Hamas agreed to participate in the upcoming local elections to be held on Oct. 8. 

Al-Khalidi said that he and other officials met on Sunday with a Hamas delegation in Gaza City, headed by deputy head of Hamas Ismail Haniyeh, who assured that the relevant officials would seek to secure the election process and guarantee its integrity and success.

CEC officials were scheduled to meet with representatives of all Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip later on Sunday, he added.

The Palestinian Authority-controlled cabinet in the West Bank, dominated by Hamas’ political rival Fatah, announced its decision to hold elections last month, but it remained uncertain whether Hamas and the Gaza Strip would be included in the process, after the movement boycotted the last local elections in 2012 in response to alleged corruption and intimidation among Fatah officials.

Analysts have claimed that Hamas’ participation in local elections could signal the possibility of long-overdue general elections being held in the West Bank and Gaza.

The last elections in the Gaza Strip were held in 2006, when Hamas’ victory erupted into a violent conflict between Hamas and Fatah as both groups attempted to take control of the small Palestinian territory.

Gaza was placed under an Israeli military siege in 2007 following Hamas' victory in the general elections and subsequent takeover of the government. The nearly decade-long siege has severely crippled the economy and further isolated the Gaza Strip from the rest of the Palestinian territory.

The two parties reached a reconciliation agreement in 2014, but its practical implementation was met with failure as a result of Hamas’ wariness at relinquishing control of the Gaza Strip and numerous political disagreements between the two groups.

Fatah and Hamas officials held reconciliation talks last month in the Qatari capital of Doha in order to discuss practical strategies of implementing a viable reconciliation agreement. However, reconciliation talks have continued to fall apart as both parties blame each other for a variety of political failures in the West Bank and Gaza.

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