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PA announces timeline for 2017 local elections in West Bank and Gaza

Feb. 6, 2017 9:03 P.M. (Updated: Feb. 8, 2017 3:07 P.M.)
(File)
RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- The Palestinian Authority (PA) Central Elections Commission announced on Monday a timeline for local elections in 2017 across the occupied West Bank and besieged Gaza Strip.

The Fatah-dominated PA had announced at the end of last month that local elections would be scheduled for May 13 in both the West Bank and Gaza, a move which Hamas, the de facto ruling party of Gaza, promptly rejected.

According to the CEC’s Arabic website, the voter registration process will begin on the morning of Saturday Feb. 25 and extend for five days.

Following the registration process, candidacy applications will be open for ten days from March 28 to April 6, and the the preliminary list of candidates will be made public on April 9.

On April 29, a final list of candidates will be made public and campaigns will start. Campaigns are set to finish on May 11, two days before the projected election day on May 13.

According to a statement from the Palestinian Ministers Council, elections will be conducted as an “attempt to end national conflict and unite Palestinians in accordance with the law and to pave the road towards holding presidential and legislative elections.”

Executive director of central elections’ committee Hisham Kheil told Ma’an earlier this month that the election process will likely cost some $8 million.

The decision to hold local elections has been rejected by the Hamas and Islamic Jihad movements, while being accepted by Fatah and the left-wing Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).

Hamas rejected the PA’s decision, saying that elections should only take place after the more than decade-long rivalry between Hamas and Fatah comes to an end and reconciliation is achieved.

"Elections should take place after ending disagreements, achieving reconciliation, and uniting Palestinian institutions, including at the political, judicial, and security levels," Hamas spokesman Hazem Qasim said.

PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah encouraged Hamas to participate in the elections during a meeting with the Palestinian-European joint committee in Ramallah, when he announced that the date of elections would be determined.

He also urged Hamas to accept PA President Mahmoud Abbas’ initiative to form a national unity government in order to pave the way toward future presidential and legislative elections.

Municipal elections set to be held in October were postponed following a controversial decision by the Fatah-run Supreme Court in Ramallah.

Prior to their cancellation, the municipal elections were set to be the first in the Gaza Strip in a decade, after Hamas’ victory in the 2006 vote erupted into a violent conflict between Hamas and Fatah, as both groups attempted to take control of the besieged coastal enclave.

A poll released by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR) at the time found that 61 percent of respondents were displeased by the Supreme Court’s initial decision to postpone the municipal elections, with 60 percent believing that the decision was politically motivated.

Meanwhile, Hamas and the PA have exchanged accusations of carrying out “politically motivated” arrests.

Fatah and Hamas have been embroiled in conflict since Hamas' election victory in 2006 elections in the Gaza Strip, which erupted into a violent conflict between the two movements as both attempted to consolidate control over the territory.

Despite numerous attempts at reconciling the groups, Palestinian leadership has repeatedly failed to follow through on promises of reconciliation and holding long-overdue elections, as both movements have frequently blamed each other for numerous political failures.

Officials from the Fatah-led PA have criticized Hamas for creating a shadow government in the Gaza Strip and blocking efforts to reach political unity.

Hamas has in turn accused the PA of executing a plan to "eradicate" the movement from the West Bank, accusing Fatah of “escalating security collaboration” with the Israeli authorities through politically-motivated arrests and “adopting a revolving door policy" funneling Palestinians from PA jails into Israeli prisons.

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