Palestinians Freeze First Local Elections in Years Due to Hamas, Fatah Spat

After Hamas barred Fatah from participating in vote in Gaza, Palestinians' top court halts election, highlighting political division between West Bank, Strip.

Reuters

The Palestinian Authority's Supreme Court ruled Thursday to freeze the local elections in the West Bank and Gaza this October due to what it described as serious irregularities – chiefly a court ruling in Gaza to remove candidate slates identified with Fatah in Gaza, and the exclusion of East Jerusalem from the election process.

Palestinian sources told Haaretz that the election process was seriously harmed when the Gaza courts, which are essentially Hamas-run, decided to annul the lists of candidates associated with Fatah in Gaza.

 “These are courts that are illegitimate and they made an illegitimate decision, and so the PA Supreme Court cannot accept a situation in which there are two separate court systems: one in the state of Gaza Strip and another in the state of the West Bank," they said.

ANALYSIS: Will Hamas participation in West Bank elections mend political rift?

According to the ruling, which was given in response to a petition filed by a lawyer from East Jerusalem, the freeze is in effect until December 21.

Hamas have yet to respond to the injunction, but media sites affiliated with the group said it was an attempt by Fatah to prevent an embarrassing loss in the election.

The also claimed that the Palestinian Authority had failed to properly prepare for the elections and were now using the court to – which they says is behold to Fatah and Abbas – to postpone the elections.  

"It’s clear that the Palestinian split and the deep rift between Fatah and Hamas is the main cause of the harm to the election process. From the start it would have been difficult to hold the election given this situation,” a legal analyst in the PA told Haaretz.

“Anyone who thought the local elections would help bring about reconciliation was evidently mistaken,” he added.

At this point, it’s unclear whether this is a final decision that will prevent the election from being held altogether, or more of a threat that will compel the sides to reconcile in regard to the candidate lists, as Hamas also has complaints about the PA’s conduct in the West Bank. Moreover, it is still unclear how East Jerusalem could be included in the elections since Israel would most likely prevent it. 

Palestinian elections for more than 400 municipal and local councils were  scheduled to take place on October 8 in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Presidential and parliamentary elections have not been held for over a decade, ever since Hamas surprised the Palestinian Authority and the experts by winning the 2006 parliamentary election. Mock council elections were held in the West Bank in 2012.