The Palestinian Authority cabinet agreed yesterday to hold local elections on 20 October in both the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Hamas immediately warned the decision would “affect reconciliation negatively.” A Hamas government spokesman, Taher Nunu, said the West Bank cabinet had violated the reconciliation deal. Another Hamas spokesman, Sami Abu Zuhri, said Fatah is responsible for all the implications of holding elections.
Last week, cabinet ministers said they decided to go ahead with the vote after Hamas suspended the work of the electoral commission in the Gaza Strip. The commission was set to begin updating voter rolls in Gaza on Tuesday, in preparation for national elections slated for this year.
A PA cabinet statement said it asked local government minister Khaled Qawasmi to prepare for local polls “as a national necessity, in order not to have one party hold hostage citizens rights to chose their representatives.”
Presidential, parliamentary and local government elections are all overdue since Fatah and Hamas split bitterly over Hamas’ electoral success in 2006 and the consequent Hamas takeover in the Gaza Strip.
The Fatah-led West Bank government has repeatedly attempted to initiate local elections, to the displeasure of Hamas who insist the vote must be conducted nationally, and thus coordinated with them.
The PA says local pressure is mounting to revitalise the local councils, with ministers citing “difficulties resulting from expiration period of elected councils which cause weaknesses in performance.”
As part of a May 2011 reconciliation deal, the parties pledged to prepare for fresh elections to unite the Gaza Strip and West Bank, under rival administrations since 2007. The deal has repeatedly faltered as the parties spar over its implementation.
Last week Hamas called off electoral registration in the Gaza Strip, a day before the process was set to start, citing political partiality concerns and highlighting repression of its members in the West Bank.