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Timeline for local Palestinian elections announced as Hamas rejects decision

March 1, 2017 6:47 P.M. (Updated: March 2, 2017 11:35 A.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- The Palestinian Authority’s (PA) Central Elections Commission announced on Wednesday the revised schedule for upcoming local elections in the occupied West Bank, saying that registration centers would be opened on March 4 in all districts across the territory.

Online voting will be also available through the commission website, and like in-person voter registration, online registration will begin on March 4 and last for five days.

Candidates will be able to register their campaigns on March 28, and the final list of candidates will be announced on April 29.

According to the commission, the elections will be held on April 13, and the results will be announced on the 14th.

“The commission hopes that there will be collaboration by all involved sides in local elections to provide the atmosphere for running democratic elections,” the statement concluded.

The commission’s announcement came a day after the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority (PA) decided to hold local elections in the West Bank on May 13 as scheduled, while excluding Palestinians in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip from taking part.

During the PA’s weekly cabinet meeting on Tuesday in Bethlehem, it was decided that elections in Gaza would be postponed “indefinitely." It remained unclear whether occupied East Jerusalem would be included in the municipal electoral process.

After the PA announced at the end of last month 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.

The Islamic Jihad movement release a statement on Wednesday in response, reiterating the movement’s rejection of running local elections without a national agreement.

Leader of the movement Khalid al-Batsh said that “the number one priority is to restore national unity and arrange the interior national affairs instead of escalating crises and making decisions that would deepen the national conflict amid Israeli continuous aggression, and settlements expansion supported by US.”

Spokesperson of Hamas Abd al-Latif al-Qanu reacted to the outcome of the PA’s cabinet meeting, saying that the decision to carry on with elections without the Gaza Strip “entrenches political divisions and asserts Fatah’s supremacy in decision making.”

He added that the consensus government should have considered the interests of all the Palestinian people instead, saying he held the Fatah movement responsible for the failure to hold elections in the Gaza Strip.

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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