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PA announces new date of local elections, Hamas rejects decision

Jan. 31, 2017 10:19 P.M. (Updated: Feb. 1, 2017 8:05 P.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma’an) -- The Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority (PA) announced on Tuesday that local elections would be scheduled for May 13 in both the occupied West Bank and besieged Gaza Strip, a move which Hamas, the de facto ruling party of Gaza, promptly rejected.

A statement released following the PA’s weekly cabinet meeting stated that elections "are a national need enabling citizens to practice the right to choose their representatives in local councils." This process, the statement added, would assist in the development of services offered to Palestinian citizens.

However, the Hamas movement rejected the PA’s decision, saying that elections should only take place after the more than a 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 the political, judicial, and security levels," Hamas spokesman Hazem Qasim said.

On Monday, 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 of 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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