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PoliticsOccupied Palestinian Territory

Palestinians vote in West Bank elections amid growing anger

December 11, 2021

Palestinians in villages in the West Bank have voted in municipal polls amid a boycott by the main opposition Hamas. The Islamist group is protesting against the indefinite postponement of a general election.

Palestinian woman casts her vote at a polling station during municipal elections in the village of Baitain
The municipal vote is the first of two stages, with cities and towns due to vote in March 2022Image: Abbas Momani/AFP/Getty Images

Palestinians held municipal elections in the Israeli-occupied West Bank on Saturday amid increasing frustrations with President Mahmoud Abbas, 86, after he canceled promised parliamentary and presidential elections earlier this year. 

Abbas’ moderate Fatah party performed poorly in the first round of elections, according to an announcement by the electoral commission. Less than 30% of the 1,503 seats went to parties, including Fatah, and more than 70% of the seats were garnered by independent candidates.

How many Palestinians were eligible to cast their ballots?

Some 400,000 Palestinians were eligible to vote in the election for representatives in 154 village councils in the West Bank, where Abbas' Palestinian Authority has limited self-rule. 

Municipal elections are typically held every four or five years and last took place in 2017.

Of the 367 villages in the West Bank, 60 had no candidates standing and another 162 had a single list, leaving only 154 villages actually voting on Saturday.

Polling stations were open until 7:00 p.m. local time (1700 GMT). As of 4:00 p.m., the turnout was 46%, according to the elections committee.

The increasingly unpopular Abbas postponed municipal votes in major West Bank cities, including Ramallah, that could have been seen as a referendum on Abbas' leadership.

Votes are not being held in Hamas-ruled Gaza as the militant group is boycotting the election amid a fallout with Abbas' Fatah party.

Hamas spokesperson Abdulatif al-Qanou told the Associated Press that the group wants parliamentary and presidential elections and considers holding the municipal vote alone a breach of earlier agreements. Today's vote does not "satisfy the inspiration and needs of the Palestinian people," he said.

Palestinian government's popularity plummets

Abbas' popularity waned after he canceled the long-awaited legislative and parliamentary elections in April. No legislative or presidential election has been held in the Palestinian territories for 15 years.

Abbas attributed the decision based on uncertainty around whether Palestinians from east Jerusalem would be able to vote. Critics, however, have accused him of postponing out of fear that his party Fatah would lose to Hamas.

Popularity for Hamas has grown among some Palestinians in the West Bank and east Jerusalem since May's 11-day war.

Intensifying crackdown on political dissent following the death of Palestinian Authority critic Nizar Banat, who died after being beaten by Palestinian security forces, has also fueled frustrations against the Palestinian government and spurred calls for Abbas' resignation.

mvb, see/wd (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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