Palestine West Bank holds elections as Gaza Strip left behind

Palestinians held municipal elections on Saturday in the occupied West Bank.

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.

Although Saturday's vote was the first legislative election in the West Bank in over a decade, turnout was low, with just 53 percent of eligible voters casting their ballots.

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.

In just two cities, Jenin and Jericho, did Fatah win an outright victory without support from other participating factions. More than half of the 536 lists participating in the elections were not registered as being affiliated with any party.

Hamas did not run any candidates under its party label in the vote.

A Palestinian woman casts her ballot at a polling station during municipal elections in the West Bank village of Yatta, near Hebron May 13, 2017.

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The failure of Hamas and Fatah to reconcile is seen as a major obstacle to any settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In some towns, Fatah barely garnered a majority of council seats, despite a boycott from its main political rivals, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

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

Amjad Mustafa, the manager of a software shop in his thirties, said the vote was "an event not to be missed" after "a long time since we last took part in a democratic event".

Hanna Nasser, head of the Central Elections Commission, said the organization plans to approach Hamas about the possibility of holding municipal elections in the Gaza Strip.

What this means for the future of Palestinian elections is unclear, though with Abbas over a decade into a four-year term in office, there's a sense among voters that their vote really doesn't count for much, and that the Palestinian Authority largely stumbles along on its own momentum.

Senwar's election symbolized the rise of the military wing's influence over Hamas' political branch and its decision-making process.


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