Palestinians hold local elections in West Bank but not Gaza

Turnout in the Palestinian local elections was about 50 percent, the Central Elections Commission (CEC) said after polls closed on Saturday.

A Palestinian helps an elderly man at a polling station in the West Bank city of Nablus, Saturday, May 13, 2017.Palestinians choose mayors and local councils in communities across the West Bank, a rare chance to cast ballots after more than a decade without presidential or legislative elections. The West Bank and Gaza have not voted together since 2006, when Hamas swept Palestinian parliamentary elections.

Voting took place Saturday only in the occupied West Bank, controlled by Fatah, and not in the Gaza Strip, which is run by the Hamas movement.

The overall turnout figures were similar to the previous local elections in 2012, also boycotted by the Islamist Hamas movement.

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%.

CEC chairman Hanna Nasser said at a press conference in Ramallah that turnout in the cities was much lower than in the villages.

Fatah only managed clear victories in two major cities: Jenin and Jericho.

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As a result, pro-Palestinian activists have previously called for a boycott of the chain. The post was taken down from their Hebrew Facebook page.

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 were due to close at 7:00 pm and final results are expected on Sunday.

They also come more than 10 years after Hamas won the majority of seats in the parliament, which left the global community to deal with the implications of a Palestinian nationalist and Islamist movement finding its feet within the mainstream Palestinian political machine.

In some areas, voters were presented with a joint list of independent candidates with leanings to both Fatah and Hamas, but these also garnered little support. Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said it was Fatah who excluded Gaza and Hamas because they were not interested in partnership.

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

"I came to exercise my democratic rights", said Bishara Dabbah, a 55-year-old Ramallah resident.

  • Megan Austin