Published: Sun, May 14, 2017
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

Palestinian West Bank local elections a test for Fatah party

Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied West Bank Gaza-Fatah-Hamas-political-rift" target="_blank">voted in the first municipal elections in years amid rifts between the ruling Fatah Party in Ramallah and the Hamas resistance movement governing the blockaded Gaza Strip.

Palestinian women show their ink-stained fingers after casting their ballots during the municipal elections in the West Bank city of Ramallah on May 13, 2017.

Israel says strike leader Marwan Barghouti, a potential successor to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, is using it to raise his profile.

There are about 2.2 million Palestinians in the West Bank.

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.

Months of political and legal squabbling preceded Saturday's voting, with Fatah and Hamas trading blames for the failure to hold polls in Gaza. The military says soldiers opened fire after dozens of Palestinians hurled rocks at them.

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Palestinians typically vote in municipal elections according to political bases.

Hamas took part in the first local elections held in 2005, which chose almost 100 local councils, as the process was never completed, then in parliamentary elections in 2006 marking a sweeping victory by winning 74 seats out of the 132 Legislative Council elections.

Meanwhile, polls conducted in the occupied territories indicate that if parliamentary elections were held today, Hamas would emerge victorious in both Gaza and the West Bank.

The local elections are also expected to take place in towns and villages around East Jerusalem, but not in Jerusalem city, where a special governance body is to be put up regulated by Palestinian elections law.

"Al-Quds opted to make the US peace efforts as its top front page story with a headline going across the page saying: "(US President Donald) Trump is going to announce during his visit (to Palestine and Israel on May 23) the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and the establishment of their independent state". Israel refuses to negotiate directly with the Islamist group until they renounce violence and recognize past peace agreements.

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