Hamas and Fatah spar ahead of upcoming municipal elections

The Palestinian Central Elections Commission said that it received 163 objections to various candidates in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, but only disqualified seven candidates.

September 6, 2016 00:29
2 minute read.
Azzam al-Ahmad and Ismail Haniyeh.

Fatah official Azzam al-Ahmad (L) and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh.. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Tensions between Hamas and Fatah are heating up over the disqualification of four Fatah lists running in separate locales in the Gaza Strip ahead of the upcoming municipal elections set to take place on October 8 in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The Palestinian Central Elections Commission (CEC) announced on Sunday that it received 163 objections to various candidates in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, but only disqualified seven candidates on separate lists including four Fatah candidates in the Gazan locales of Nuseirat, Umm al-Nasr, Beit Hanun, and al-Zahra.

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According to the Palestinian Authority’s 2005 municipal elections law, the individual disqualification of a candidate invalidates the candidate’s entire list.

The identity of the three other disqualified candidates has not been revealed.

The CEC disqualified candidates for a variety of reasons ranging from the submission of inaccurate information to the failure to present a certificate confirming the payment of all registration fees.

However, a disqualified candidate can appeal to a local court of first instance within three days of learning of his or her disqualification.

Following the CEC’s announcement, Gaza-based Fatah leader Faisal Abu Shahala declared that his movement has no intention of appealing to local courts in Gaza, but rather the High Court of Justice in Ramallah.

“Fatah will turn to the High Court of Justice to overturn the [disqualifications]. We will not work with the institutions of the division or the status quo,” Abu Shahala told Ma’an, referring to the Hamas-supervised courts in Gaza.

The Fatah leader also questioned the rationale of disqualifying entire lists due to the disqualification of individual candidates.

“If there is an issue with one of the candidates, the entire list should not be thrown out, but rather the candidate replaced,” he added.

Hamas Spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri responded hours later, saying that any attempt to appeal disqualifications of Gazan lists to courts in Ramallah constitutes a violation of the law.

“If Fatah [in Gaza] turns to the High Court of Justice in Ramallah or bypasses the specialized courts in the Gaza Strip, [such a move] will constitute a violation of the law and sidestepping of the CEC’s decisions,” Abu Zuhri said.

“Hamas calls on Fatah to abide by the law and warns it against bypassing the specialized courts in Gaza.”

CEC Spokesman Farid Tanallah told The Jerusalem Post on Monday that the CEC has instructed all parties to appeal disqualifications to local courts of first instance.

“The position of the CEC is that any appeal of disqualification of a list should take place in the local courts of first instance,” he said.

Tanallah added that he currently cannot comment on whether the CEC will accept rulings made by the High Court of Justice in Ramallah, but said “Palestinian law is quite clear regarding this topic.”

Fatah and Hamas have exchanged barbs for the past many weeks, accusing one another of arresting each other’s cadres.

Competition between the two major Palestinian movements is expected to intensify in the coming weeks especially after September 24 when candidates can openly campaign and promote their agendas.

The municipal elections mark the first time that Fatah and Hamas have both participated in elections on the national level since the 2006 parliamentary elections.

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