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Hamas prompts voters to take part in West Bank elections despite its boycott

May 10, 2017 1:27 P.M. (Updated: May 11, 2017 5:48 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Despite immediately boycotting local elections after they were announced in January by the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority (PA), Hamas, the de facto ruling party of the besieged Gaza Strip, has encouraged Palestinians to vote.

Hamas rejected the PA’s plan to hold municipal elections in both the occupied West Bank and Gaza, saying that elections should only take place after the more than decade-long rivalry between Hamas and Fatah came to an end and reconciliation was achieved.

Amid growing anger against the PA, calls to boycott the elections were also made by the Islamic Jihad, the leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and most recently, by a committee set up to to support an ongoing mass hunger strike in Israeli prisons, which denounced the PA’s security coordination with Israel.

In a statement published on their official website Wednesday, the Hamas movement nonetheless called upon Palestinians in the West Bank to cast their votes for “the most competent” candidates in the elections, planned for Saturday, May 13.

“Hamas confirmed that its public base at the West Bank will positively partake in the elections by choosing the best to serve the Palestinian citizens,” the statement said, acknowledging the “crucial role” local councils in the West Bank have in confronting Israeli policies and providing the basic services to the Palestinian people.

“It is noteworthy to say that Hamas decided not to run for the elections because of the issuance of a number of presidential decisions without reaching a consensus from all national partners, noting that achieving the internal unity is the best recipe for democracy,” the statement added.

Over the weekend, reports emerged that PA President Mahmoud Abbas had made a presidential decree exempting the Gazan population from paying taxes to the PA. Hamas slammed the order for being made without the approval of the Palestinian parliament, the Palestinian Legislative Council, and accused the PA of “attempting to deprive the Gaza Strip of its local tax revenues for political reasons.”

Despite criticism, the elections process has continued to move forward. The Central Elections Commission announced Wednesday that a press conference would be held in al-Bireh on Thursday on the progression of the electoral process.

The most recent attempt to hold local elections came after elections scheduled to be held in October were postponed, following backlash over a PA Supreme Court ruling to exclude the Gaza Strip from the elections altogether.

Prior to their cancellation, the municipal elections had been 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.
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