GAZA CITY: The Palestinian Authority is preparing to hold municipal elections, but Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, has yet to officially respond to the authority’s request to host elections in conjunction with the West Bank.
Analysts say that the delays are a Hamas strategy to deny an election, which are said to be in planning as a result of European pressure.
After municipality council terms expired at the beginning of June, the Palestinian government, headed by a member of the Central Committee of the Fatah, Mohammad Shtayyeh, decided to dissolve them.
Shtayyeh informed the consuls and representatives of European countries that “work is underway to bring about comprehensive changes, in addition to organizing the union elections and local elections before the end of the year.”
The Palestinians have not held unified elections since the last legislative polls in 2006, in which Hamas won a majority, followed by a split in mid-2007. Since then, local elections have been held only in the West Bank, excluding Gaza.
Unified local elections were supposed to be held in October 2016, but the Palestinian High Court of Justice, the highest judicial body in the Palestinian territories, decided to postpone them until further notice, justifying the decision because Jerusalem was not set to be included.
Local government minister Magdi Al-Saleh said that the Palestinian Authority informed Hamas of its intention to hold local council elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, but that it had not received any official response.
He added that the local elections will take place in two phases. The first phase includes 387 local bodies. The second phase includes the municipalities, which represent the centers of governorates and large urban areas.
“The government will issue a decision on the date of holding the second phase after giving the opportunity for further consultation with the concerned parties regarding the completion of the elections in all parts of the country.” Al-Saleh told Arab News.
The Palestinian Local Elections Law stipulates that “elections shall be held every four years by a decision of the Council of Ministers.”
It was notable that Hamas did not issue any official position regarding the local elections.
However, Hamas official and former minister Muhammad Al-Madhoun said that the group “has a clear position.”
He told Arab News: “Hamas is preoccupied with major national issues, and it is not in the process of participating in the power game to keep people busy.”
While it seems that Hamas categorically refuses to participate in these elections, other factions have warned that the elections should not to be divided into two stages and should be held simultaneously in the West Bank and Gaza.
Secretary-General of the Palestinian National Initiative Mustafa Barghouti urged the “necessity of holding the elections in all municipalities and village councils on the same day.”
He said in a press release: “There is no justification for dividing the municipal elections in stages, because this carries the risk of postponing them in cities and large populations indefinitely, in addition to the fact that the division affects the principle of equal democratic practice for all citizens.”