Widespread Boycott Drags Down Turnout in Palestinian Elections

A film is screened during the third edition of the Red Carpet Film Festival at the seaport of Gaza City
A film is screened during the third edition of the Red Carpet Film Festival at the seaport of Gaza City
Author

15 May, 2017

Palestinians in the occupied West Bank voted in municipal elections on Saturday, underscoring deep rifts between President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party and rival Hamas which runs the Gaza Strip.

Escalating tensions between Hamas and the more moderate Fatah led to Hamas's seizure of Gaza in 2007, while Abbas's party was left with control of the West Bank.

Official figures put turnout at 53.4 percent, or almost the same as local elections in the West Bank in 2012, according to electoral commission chief Hanna Nasser.

In Nablus, the biggest West Bank city, turnout was only 20 percent; in Al Bireh, Ramallah's twin city, 28 percent; and Hebron, the second-largest West Bank city, 30 percent.

Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah says Hamas prevented its members from taking part in the election and called on its new political leadership to agree to a national unity government followed by comprehensive elections.

Even then Fatah only managed convincing wins in a couple of cities, Jenin and Jericho, struggling to even field a list in a lot of cities and having to run joint lists with independents to try to get on the ballot.

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. Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine are boycotting the vote.

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Although it won easily, the Fatah Party's poor showing as results were released on Sunday reflected public discontent towards Abbas.

This split is widely seen as a major obstacle to any settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Gaza is ruled by the Islamist Hamas movement and is under a partial Israeli-Egyptian blockade.

In February, the Ramallah-based government made a decision to hold the polls in the West Bank, while postponed it in the blockaded Gaza Strip.

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.

Subsequent efforts to hold the polls in both territories simultaneously were unsuccessful as the two parties failed to bridge their differences.

There haven't been presidential and parliamentary elections since 2005 and Abbas' term has officially long expired.


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