Hamas pushes for municipal elections in Gaza

If they go ahead, the polls would be the first time Gazans have voted since 2006

Elections in Gaza would be a 'litmus test' of the Palestinian people's acceptance of Hamas, according to a researcher in the city. AFP
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The leaders of Hamas have pushed for municipal elections to take place in the Gaza Strip for the first time since 2006.

Abdellatif Al Qanou, spokesman for the militant group, said on Monday that elections are Palestinians' “natural right”.

On Tuesday, Palestine's Central Elections Commission said it was waiting for approval from the cabinet to hold polls, without specifying when they might take place.

The Hamas government has been in the spotlight recently after protests broke out across the besieged strip with demonstrators demanding a better quality of life, under a campaign called Bidna N'eesh or We Want to Live.

At the same time, the party's leadership has been meeting Palestinian factions in Egypt for reconciliation talks. Similar talks have taken place several times before to no avail.

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas Political Bureau chief Ismail Haniyeh agreed last week to speed up the reconciliation process which entails forming a “follow-up committee” to discuss the relevant issues.

Still, any elections that take place in Gaza will be risky for Hamas, said Ramallah-based researcher Ahmad Bassyouni who hails from Gaza.

“Elections in Gaza will be a litmus test of the Palestinian people's acceptance of Hamas,” he told The National.

“Fatah officials are strongly present in Gaza and could potentially make gains during the vote, especially since Hamas is under pressure not just internally but from the West Bank itself.”

This would not be the first time that elections were attempted in Gaza.

“We hope this isn't just another vortex where elections are announced then fall through due to political differences,” he said, referring to a failed 2021 legislative and presidential vote that Mr Abbas called for then cancelled citing uncertainty over whether Israel will allow people to cast their vote in East Jerusalem.

Shortly after the indefinite postponement, municipal elections were held in the West Bank but Hamas blocked any such vote from taking place in the Gaza Strip.

Last week, Mr Abbas dismissed 12 governors across the West Bank and Gaza by presidential decree. He gave no reason for their removal.

Updated: August 15, 2023, 4:45 PM