Palestinian factions trade arrests, accusations ahead of municipal elections


Rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah have accused each other of attempting to disrupt the upcoming Palestinian municipal elections, by arresting each other’s members.

According to al-Quds al-Arabi, Hamas has accused the Palestinian Authority (PA), which is dominated by Fatah, of arresting eight Hamas members in the West Bank. Hamas representative Abdul Rahman Zeidan said that the arrests are “shaking Hamas’s confidence in the PA’s, the government’s and Fatah’s seriousness in organising democratic elections”.

However, the Wafa news agency says that Fatah spokesperson Osama Qawasmeh has accused Hamas of arresting its activists in the Gaza Strip.

Qawasmeh said: “The summoning and arrest of dozens of our leaders, members, and cadres in Gaza has… increased in a major way in light of the upcoming municipal elections.”

He added that the arrests “prove that Hamas is clinging to an anti-democratic strategy”.

Meanwhile, in further criticism, Hamas condemned a decree by PA President Mahmoud Abbas, which would guarantee a minimum number of nine local councils with a Christian majority and council head. Abbas’s ruling would mean that at least 67 out of the 3,848 seats in October’s scheduled local elections would be filled by Christians. A Hamas statement called the decree “a violation of the electoral process and an attempt to influence the outcome”.

Last month, Hamas made a surprise announcement that it will field a full list of candidates in the upcoming Palestinian local and municipal elections, being contested in 391 areas in the West Bank and 25 in Gaza. Hamas did not contest the last Palestinian local vote in 2012. There has been no election for the Palestinian Legislative Council since 2006.

Ever since Hamas violently seized the Gaza Strip from the PA in 2007, relations between Fatah and Hamas have been bitter. There have been several attempts at reconciliation between the two factions since then, but none have come to fruition. Hamas remains in exclusive control of the Gaza Strip, while the PA is the sole authority in Palestinian areas of the West Bank.