Fatah leads local polls in West Bank cities

The voting on Saturday only took place in the Fatah-controlled West Bank, and not in the Gaza Strip, which is run by Fatah’s rival Hamas.

A Palestinian man casts his vote at a polling station in the West Bank city of Nablus during municipal elections on May 13, 2017. Majdi Mohammed / AP Photo
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RAMALLAH // Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party was ahead in most of the West Bank’s main cities after municipal elections, results showed Sunday.

The voting on Saturday only took place in the Fatah-controlled West Bank, and not in the Gaza Strip, which is run by Fatah’s rival Hamas.

Attempts to hold the first joint elections in the West Bank and Gaza since 2006 failed after the two movements were not able to reach an agreement.

Hamas did not run any candidates under its party label in the vote. The leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, meanwhile, called for a boycott, saying it refused to participate in an election while hundreds of Palestinians in Israeli jails were on hunger strike.

The prisoners began the hunger strike on April 17, demanding better conditions.

Official figures for Saturday’s election showed turnout at 53.4 per cent – nearly the same as the turnout for local elections in the West Bank in 2012, said electoral commission chief Hanna Nasser in Ramallah.

Turnout was far lower in large cities than in surrounding communities, however. The lowest turnout was in Nablus, the main city in the northern West Bank, where only 21 per cent of the electorate voted.

Ramallah, the Palestinian political capital, saw turnout of less than 40 per cent.

Fatah’s list was notably ahead in the cities of Jenin, Jericho and Hebron. More than half of the 536 lists participating in the elections were not registered as being affiliated with any party.

The failure of Hamas and Fatah to reconcile is seen as a major obstacle to any settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The West Bank and Gaza have not participated in an election together since 2006, when Hamas swept Palestinian parliamentary polls, sparking a conflict that led to near civil war in Gaza the following year.

Escalating tensions between Hamas and the more moderate Fatah led to Hamas’s seizure of Gaza in 2007, while Mr Abbas’s party was left with control of the West Bank, which has been occupied by Israel for 50 years.

Mr Abbas’s presidential term was meant to end in 2009, but he has remained in office with no elections organised.

* Agence France-Presse