Palestinians in West Bank villages hold municipal elections

Nearly 65 per cent of the 405,000 eligible voters cast their ballots in the local elections

A woman casts her vote during municipal elections, in the village of Baitain, east of the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah. The previous municipal vote took place in 2017. AFP

Palestinians in the occupied West Bank voted on Saturday in municipal polls boycotted by the main opposition Hamas, the Islamist rulers of Gaza, in protest at the indefinite postponement of a general election.

No legislative or presidential election has been held in the Palestinian territories for 15 years, while the last municipal vote - also boycotted by Hamas - took place in 2017.

Of the 376 villages in the West Bank, 60 had no candidates standing and another 162 had a single list, leaving only 154 villages actually voting on Saturday.

The spokesman for the Palestinian Central Elections Commission, Fareed Taam Allah, said that polling stations had opened in all villages scheduled to vote on Saturday.

Maslama Srour, a 26-year-old voter in Nilin, a village near Ramallah, expressed hope "that elections will lead up to a presidential election so that we can choose a president who represents us and a new government."

"We don't want the same government, we want to see something new, we hope to see change, new people, especially young people," Mr Srour said.

Polling stations closed at 7:00 pm (1700 GMT), with nearly 65 per cent of the 405,000 eligible voters casting ballots, according to the elections committee.

Results will be announced Sunday afternoon, it said.

This was the first of a two-stage process, with cities and towns due to vote in March 2022.

The municipal vote is widely considered inconsequential, as most candidates are running as independents and Hamas is not taking part.

They are "politically unimportant because they are taking place in villages and not the big cities", and are "futile" in the absence of Hamas, political analyst Jihad Harb said.

Hamas has ruled Gaza since 2007 and is boycotting the vote in protest at president Mahmud Abbas's indefinite postponement of parliamentary and presidential elections that had been scheduled for earlier this year.

Hamas had been poised to sweep the parliamentary election, which was widely seen as the real reason for Mr Abbas's 11th-hour delay in the poll. He cited Israel's refusal to allow voting in east Jerusalem.

Mr Abbas's presidential term was supposed to end in 2009.

Hamas and Fatah, the secular party led by 86-year-old Mr Abbas, have been at loggerheads since 2007 when Gaza was seized after a week of deadly clashes.

Updated: December 12, 2021, 7:59 AM