Saturday, May 13, 2017

West Bank Palestinians vote in local elections

Palestinians in the occupied West Bank are going to the polls for the first time since 2012 to vote in local and municipal elections.

Several major Palestinian factions, including Hamas, the Islamic Jihad group and the leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) refused to participate in Satuday's elections, despite the five-year gap since the last poll.

"The election doesn't carry an enormous amount of weight," Al Jazeera's Harry Fawcett, reporting from Ramallah in the West Bank, said.

"These are relatively minor council elections," Fawcett added. "People here are casting ballots to be represented in terms of local services, road building, building permits."

"The fact that Hamas is boycotting the ballot - that the PFLP and Islamic Jihad are not taking part - really does make this a one-party election, a Fatah election. And so it's hard to take a broad read of Palestinian opinion from these elections."

Fatah, the ruling party in the West Bank, is led by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who was elected in 2005.

Abbas' presidential term officially ended in 2009, but elections have not been held in Palestine since 2006, when Hamas stood for parliamentary elections and won.

Fatah refused to recognise the vote, and Hamas and Fatah have since 2007 ruled the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, respectively.

Efforts to create a unity government have been numerous, but faltered each time. Both parties have also blamed one another for their failure to hold elections together.

"There is a fairly widely held opinion here that the longer these two rival factions continue to run their own separate parts of geography - in their own systems, along their own lines - the harder it will be in the longrun to bridge that divide," Fawcett said.

A student election on Wednesday at Birzeit University in the West Bank, considered more indicative of the overall mood of Palestinians living in the occupied territories, resulted in a victory for a party considered ideologically aligned with Hamas.
Source: Al Jazeera News

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