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Fatah maintains majority in local councils by going largely uncontested

May 16, 2017 12:59 P.M. (Updated: May 31, 2017 3:44 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Two days after municipal elections took place across the occupied West Bank, the Palestinian Central Elections Commission (CEC) reported that Fatah, the ruling party of the Palestinian Authority (PA), maintained a majority of local council seats, despite independent lists having scored a higher number of votes.

While approximately 65 percents of seats up for grabs during Saturday’s election went to registered or independent lists in 145 municipalities, another 181 villages and towns mainly saw Fatah lists run unopposed, official Palestinian news agency Wafa quoted CEC as saying on Monday.

As anti-PA sentiment has continued to grow over the past year, a number of political factions, including Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), decided to boycott the elections.

According to CEC data, in municipalities where elections took place, in addition to two-thirds of seats going to independents, Fatah lists won 27.6 percent of seats, while the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) won 2.77 percent, party coalition lists won 2.77 percent, Palestinian National Initiative lists won 0.58 percent, the Palestinian Democratic Union 0.45 percent, the Democratic Alliance 0.32 percent, the Palestinian Popular Struggle Front 0.26 percent, and the Palestinian People’s Party won 0.19 percent.

In the 181 municipalities in which lists ran unopposed, 74.9 percent of the total 1,683 local council seats went to Fatah, while 12.9 percent went to party coalition blocs, 11.6 percent went to non-partisan lists, and 0.6 percent went to DFLP.

According to CEC, around a fifth of seats went to female candidates.

The CEC had previously reported that the voter turnout stood at 53.4 percent -- a participation rate virtually the same as in the 2012 and 2005 locals elections, which has been seen by analysts as a sign of disaffection with Fatah and the PA.

In its latest public opinion poll in March, the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR) found that support for Fatah was down from 41 percent in December to 36 percent, with only 46 percent of respondents at the time saying they were certain to participate in the local elections.

Saturday’s local elections were initially scheduled to be held in October, but 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.

The elections only took place in the West Bank, as Hamas, the de facto leading party of the besieged Gaza Strip, rejected the legitimacy of the elections.

The PA was meanwhile prohibited from carrying out elections in occupied East Jerusalem, annexed by Israel following the 1967 military takeover of the Palestinian territory.
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