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PA closes voter registration for West Bank municipal elections

March 8, 2017 10:42 P.M. (Updated: March 8, 2017 10:48 P.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- The Palestinian Authority's Central Elections Commission (CEC) announced on Wednesday that the voter registration process for local elections was now complete after registration centers had been open for five days.

The CEC said physical and online registration both closed at 3 p.m., after 40,000 new voters registered across the occupied West Bank, 27,000 submitted of whom submitted their applications online.

The CEC will start preparing electoral registers in its main office in al-Bireh on Thursday, with the final registers made public on May 13, the day of the vote.

Lists of newly registered voters will be made public on March 13.

After the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority (PA) announced at the end of last January that local elections would be scheduled in both the West Bank and Gaza, Hamas, the de facto ruling party of Gaza, along with the Islamic Jihad movement, promptly rejected the plan, 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.

Late last month, the PA decided to hold local elections in the occupied West Bank in May as scheduled, while excluding Palestinians in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip from taking part.

Municipal elections set to be held last October were postponed with the intent of holding them in the entire occupied Palestinian territory, following backlash over a PA Supreme Court ruling to exclude the Gaza Strip from the elections altogether.

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.

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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