Palestinian court orders local elections only in West Bank

The Palestinian high court Monday ordered municipal elections only in the West Bank and not the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, possibly ending hopes of the first competitive Palestinian polls in a decade.
A new date was not set for the suspended polls, initially scheduled for October 8, but the electoral commission asked for a delay of six months following the court ruling.

The ruling could end hopes that these would be the first polls since 2006 in which both Islamist movement Hamas and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas’s Fatah, which runs the West Bank, would participate.

Reconciliation attempts between the two movements have repeatedly failed.

“The court orders the implementation of the government’s decision on the holding of local elections,” court president Hisham al-Hatoo ruled before a packed courtroom in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

He said, however, that the judiciary in Gaza did not have the necessary “guarantees” in place for holding the polls.

The elections were initially to choose municipal councils in some 416 cities and towns in Gaza and the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Hamas boycotted the last Palestinian municipal elections in 2012, but had been due to participate this year.

On September 8, the court suspended the polls following disputes between Fatah and Hamas over candidate lists.

A new date for polling day is expected to be set within a month.

Hamas immediately dismissed Monday’s decision as “political”.

“The high court’s decision on the elections is discriminatory and ratifies the division” between Gaza and the West Bank, it said in a statement.

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