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Palestinian Authority suspends municipal polls amid differences with Hamas

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The Palestinian Authority has suspended municipal elections, which were previously scheduled for later this month in the Israeli-occupied West Bank but not in the Gaza Strip.

During a weekly meeting in the northern West Bank city of al-Khalil (Hebron) on Tuesday, the Ramallah-based Palestinian government ordered a delay of six months for the polls, initially scheduled for October 8. No exact new date was set.

The move was adopted a day after the Palestinian Supreme Court ordered municipal elections to be held only in the West Bank, claiming that the judiciary in the Gaza Strip did not have the necessary “guarantees” in place for holding the vote.

Palestinian factions strongly condemned the court’s decision, with the Hamas resistance movement censuring the measure as “politicized” and accusing rival Fatah movement of being behind the Supreme Court’s ruling.

“The judicial order to hold local elections in the West Bank and not in the Gaza Strip is deeply politicized and ordered by the will of Fatah,” Hamas said in a statement, adding that the move was an attempt by Fatah to skip elections after a failure to post a list of competent candidates.

Hamas further accused the Palestinian Authority of being heavily biased in favor of Fatah, and viewing it as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.

The deputy chief of Hamas Political Bureau, Musa Abu Marzouq, also slammed the court decision as “politicized” in a Twitter post, adding that it deepened divisions among Palestinian political factions.

In this file photo, a Palestinian man casts his ballots during a local election in the occupied West Bank.

Separately, the Palestinian National Initiative (PNI) political party said that the ruling “conflicted with the national and democratic interests of the Palestinian people and stood in the way of holding the first unified elections across the West Bank and Gaza Strip since 2006, which could have opened the door into holding legislative, presidential, and national council elections.”

“We cannot deprive our sons and daughters in the Gaza Strip of their natural right to participate in local elections,” the PNI statement further read.

The Palestinian People’s Party (PPP) also highlighted that elections must be held in all local councils, and the right of all Palestinians to cast a ballot and participate in the electoral process safeguarded.

The municipal polls would have been the first involving Fatah and Hamas since 2006, when the latter scored a landslide victory in legislative polls in Gaza, an outcome that led to a rupture in Palestinian politics.

Hamas boycotted the last Palestinian municipal elections, which were held in 2012 with the participation of only a fraction of the West Bank’s municipalities.

In April 2014, Hamas and Fatah agreed to set aside their differences and formed a unity government. Despite the unity deal, however, the two sides continue to differ on certain major issues.

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