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Middle East

Palestinian premier announces municipal elections for West Bank only

Elections in the Gaza Strip have been postponed indefinitely, a Palestinian official said. But Hamas has criticized the announcement of fresh elections, saying it 'serves Fatah's political interests.'

Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah on Tuesday announced municipal elections will take place in May in the West Bank after Hamas refused to allow the Gaza Strip to participate.

Local elections had initially been scheduled for October 8 with Hamas, an Islamist organization which governs Gaza through its political arm.

However, the deal fell through after a court in Ramallah suspended the elections in response to a Gaza court's rejection of electoral lists put forth by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

"(We will) hold the municipal elections in the West Bank on May 13 and postpone them in the Gaza Strip," Ramallah government spokesman Tarek Rishmawi told the AFP news agency.

The Palestinian Authority, led by Abbas' Fatah Party, has not organized polls in both territories since 2006. Then, Hamas won nearly 45 percent of the vote during parliamentary elections, effectively placing it in a position to lead the government.

However, fighting between Fatah and Hamas and Israeli attacks on the Palestinian government led to open conflict, leading to the latter taking control of the Gaza Strip.

Hamas criticized Hamdallah's announcement on Tuesday, saying elections in the West Bank reinforced the "division" between the factions, and ultimately "serves Fatah's political interests."

Local elections last took place in 2012, although only in the West Bank after Hamas decided to boycott the electoral process.

ls/jm (AFP, dpa)

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