Palestinian West Bank local elections a test for Fatah party

Palestinian West Bank local elections a test for Fatah party

Palestinian West Bank local elections a test for Fatah party

Running virtually unopposed, Mahmoud Abbas' ruling Fatah Party has strolled to victory in West Bank municipal elections.

Hanna Nasser, head of elections commission, called on all citizens who have the right to vote to cast their votes in their local elections, which opened at 7:00 A.M. until 7:00 P.M.

The elections were first announced in 2016, but judicial interventions by both parties in Gaza and the West Bank continued to block announced dates, postponing the elections.

The Palestinians have been divided between rival governments since Hamas defeated Fatah in the 2006 legislative elections and drove the latter out of the Gaza Strip the following year, leaving Abbas in control only of the Palestinian Authority autonomy government in parts of the West Bank. The last time the Palestinians had a strong turnout for an election was the 2006 parliamentary vote, which Fatah decisively lost to Hamas, and then chose to ignore.

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However, turnout was far lower in large cities than in surrounding communities, with the lowest in Nablus, the main city in the northern West Bank, where it was less than 21 percent.

Fatah's list was notably ahead in the cities of Jenin, Jericho and Hebron.

Hanna Nasser, chairman of the Palestinian election commission, said numerous contenders were from Fatah, while in some villages "clans and families" had decided on the candidate lists. Polls for the 800,000 eligible voters closed at 7:00 p.m. with final results expected on Sunday.

More than 4,400 candidates are competing for 1,561 council seats. The 300,000 residents of east Jerusalem were not voting Saturday.

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Official figures for Saturday's election showed turnout at 53.4 per cent - almost the same as the turnout for local elections in the West Bank in 2012, said electoral commission chief Hanna Nasser in Ramallah. "Holding them in the West Bank alone, without Gaza, will cement division", said Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum.

The Palestinian Central Elections Commission is now talking to Hamas about holding municipal elections in the Gaza Strip, AP reported.

Abbas, 82, is now 12 years into what was to be a four-year term and is an unpopular leader according to opinion polls.

A man looks for his name on a voter's list at a polling station in the West Bank city of Nablus, Saturday, May 13, 2017.

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