Ruling Fatah party fares poorly in Palestinian elections

Posted May 15, 2017

A Palestinian casting his vote in local elections in the city of Nablus.

Preliminary results in Palestinian municipal elections in the West Bank indicate a weak showing by the ruling Fatah Party of President Mahmoud Abbas, even though the rival Islamic Hamas movement stayed out of the race.

Hanna Nasser, head of elections commission, called on all citizens who have the right to vote to cast their votes in their local elections, which opened at 7:00 A.M. until 7:00 P.M.

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.

However, since it seized control over the Gaza Strip in 2007, Hamas had refused to take part in any elections saying the internal division should be ended before holding local elections. And in Nablus, another major city, Fatah won 11 of 15 seats, but only after forming an alliance with Islamist candidates.

More than a million Palestinians were registered to choose from among 4,400 candidates in a vote that was seen as yet another sign that reconciliation may be a long way off.

Several months ago, Hamas announced that it had elected senior military official Yehya Senwar as its leader in the Gaza Strip.

Official figures for Saturday's election showed turnout at 53.4 per cent - almost the same as the turnout for local elections in the West Bank in 2012, said electoral commission chief Hanna Nasser in Ramallah.

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Ramallah, the Palestinian political capital, saw turnout of less than 40%.

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. Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said it was Fatah who excluded Gaza and Hamas because they were not interested in partnership.

One-hundred and forty-five West Bank localities were up for grabs.

Fatah and unaffiliated candidates close to Abbas were expected to win the most seats, as they did in 2012 polls boycotted by Hamas.

Rival lists also looked to the same electorate.

Fatah's list was notably ahead in the cities of Jenin, Jericho and Hebron.

Palestinians typically vote in municipal elections according to political bases.