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Fatah-Hamas dispute dominates Palestinian street

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Lacking legitimacy, West Bank elections proceed

Created on 21 October 2012

Saturday’s municipal elections in the West Bank are a step in the process before holding national elections. However, the Palestinian Authority is not likely, or politically able, to unilaterally decree presidential elections as it did with local polls. Analyst Majed Nassar explains the local elections as an attempt to reaffirm the Palestinian Authority’s legitimacy and postpone Presidential elections that might unseat the traditional power-holder. Furthermore, Saturday’s vote furthered the geo-political divide between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip while discouraging reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas.

 electionselections 

Election posters vying for the same lampost in the Bethlehem-area town of Beit Sahour (Photo: Thayer Hastings, AIC) 


Hamas has boycotted local elections that concluded Saturday evening in the West Bank and prevented voting within the Gaza Strip where it governs.

 

Elections were held in 93 West Bank towns and villages as candidates in another 179 localities were appointed unopposed. The Associated Press reported that Fatah won local council majorities in six towns, but lost in five others to independents and leftist parties such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP). Preliminary results indicate that Fatah won Hebron while losing Nablus, Jenin and Ramallah, the seat of Mahmoud Abbas’ government. Hebron’s voter turnout was 33.7%, reflecting the tangibility of Hamas’ call for a boycott in the pro-Hamas city, reported Ma’an. The Central Elections Commission will release official results later on Sunday.

 

Rationalizing its boycott, Hamas objected that Fatah has skewed the playing field in their favor and silenced political voices favoring Hamas. Hamas won many municipal councils in the West Bank in the last local elections in 2005 and went on to win the legislative elections in Gaza in25 January 2006. Palestinians from a range of political dispositions, but generally critical of Fatah, refused to participate in Saturday’s elections that they considered illegitimate. Nearly 55% of 505,000 eligible voters cast their ballots, or 277,000, a relatively low turnout.

 

Cries of hope – that these local elections will be part of a larger momentum towards democracy following in the wake of the Arab Spring - fall flat considering that the second largest party, Hamas, refuses to participate whilst taking the Gaza Strip with it. Regardless, the semblance of a democratic process was reason for excitement.

 

In the two weeks prior to elections, posters flew up around participating West Bank cities and towns. Political parties held meetings in prominent public places. On Friday evening, car horns were constant in the motivational revelry prior to Saturday’s vote, expressing a dual pent up desire for democratic exercise and frustration with political limitations of the current government.

 

Analysts likeDr. Majed Nassar are skeptical about local elections promoting any noticeable changes in an un-reconciled and what many are calling a corrupt political system. Discussing recent protests in the West Bank, Nassar said: “[Palestinians] are in a very confusing position faced with deciding between activism against the Israeli occupation or against the Palestinian Authority. One is a buffer for the other.”

 

Although the elections’ influence may be limited,an array of independent candidates have risen to fill the vacuum left by Hamas including an all-female slate in Hebron running under the slogan: “By participating, we can.”

 

Saturday’s local elections are a step in the process before holding national elections. However, the Palestinian Authority is not likely, or politically able, to unilaterally decree presidential elections as it did with local polls. Majed Nassar explains the local elections as an attempt to reaffirm the Palestinian Authority’s legitimacy and postpone Presidential elections that might unseat the traditional power-holder. Furthermore, Saturday’s vote furthered the geo-political divide between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip while discouraging reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas.