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Palestinian PM Calls on Hamas to Allow Local Elections

Palestinian PM Calls on Hamas to Allow Local Elections

Tuesday, 21 September, 2021 - 06:45
Palestinian fishermen in Gaza (AFP)

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh called on Hamas to allow municipal elections to take place in the Gaza Strip, but the movement rejected his invitation, saying the elections are indivisible.

Speaking at the weekly cabinet meeting in Ramallah, Shtayyeh called on Hamas to allow the municipal elections on December 11 in their first phase, provided that the second phase is completed before the end of the first quarter of next year.

Earlier, the government issued a decision to hold local elections in two phases, the first on December 11 for Areas C in the West Bank, and the second phase in the first quarter of 2022 for Areas A and B.

The first phase is supposed to occur in 387 local authorities, while the second phase will occur in 90 major towns and cities.

Local elections are held every four years, but Hamas has prevented them in Gaza since it took control over the Strip in 2007.

Fatah won the majority during the last municipal elections in the West Bank in 2017-2018 after Hamas boycotted them.

The Executive Director of the Central Elections Commission, Hisham Kahil, said that holding local elections in Gaza requires political approval, noting that they are awaiting the cabinet's decision.

In 2017, the government held the elections in the West Bank only after it was unable to obtain Hamas' approval for Gaza.

The last elections held jointly between the West Bank and Gaza were in 2004 and 2005, over three phases. The Authority then announced that it wanted to hold elections in 2010 and 2011, which never happened. Elections were later held in 2012 and 2017 without the participation of Hamas.

Hamas reacted angrily to the government's announcement of the date of local elections, signaling that it would prevent the polls from taking place in Gaza.

Hamas official Mohammad Faraj al-Ghoul said that the elections are indivisible and that any vote must be part of national consensus.

Hamas believes that a unilateral step regarding the local elections and ignoring the national consensus, which necessitates holding the local, legislative, and presidential elections, is an attempt to circumvent the Palestinians' legitimate rights.

The movement warned that any step taken by the government without implementing what was agreed upon nationally is a failed attempt and “deepens the dictatorship.”

The legislative and presidential elections were supposed to occur in the Palestinian territories between May and July, but Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas canceled them after Israel banned them in Jerusalem.

Fatah, the government, and other factions are pressuring Hamas to allow elections in Gaza.

Member of the Palestine Liberation Front politburo Sufian Matar said Hamas obstructs the constitution by rejecting the polls.

Matar called on the movement to allow the elections to take place regardless of its participation.

Saleh Nasser, a member of the Democratic Front politburo, also called on Hamas to participate in the local elections and remove obstacles to holding them as a democratic and natural right for all.

Hamas is not expected to respond to the movement's calls, especially as it requests a precise date for the general elections, but the Authority did not heed the demand.

Local elections are politically significant because they can prove the factions' popular strength and dominance.

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