Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
The Palestinian Authority on Tuesday decided on a new date to hold long-delayed municipal elections.
“The cabinet decided... to hold municipal elections on May 13, 2017, in all parts of the homeland, believing in the unity of the homeland and the people,” a readout of the PA cabinet’s meeting said.
The new date comes four months after the PA postponed elections, following disputes between rival Fatah and Hamas parties over the legitimacy of courts in the Gaza Strip.
The PA cabinet meeting statement added that its “citizens have the right to choose their representatives in the municipal councils as [a part of an effort] to contribute to the development and improvement of services.”
Municipalities are primarily responsible for providing services – such as the delivery of water and electricity and paving roads – to its citizens.
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum slammed the decision to hold local elections, calling it “baseless” and “unacceptable.”
“[This decision] strengthens division, serves Fatah politics, comes at the expense of the Palestinian people and the unity of its institutions, and confirms that the government is working in favor of Fatah,” he said in a statement published on the group’s official website.
Fatah, which dominates the PA in the West Bank, and Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, have been at loggerheads in recent weeks, each accusing the other of causing an electricity crisis in Gaza and arresting one another’s cadres.
Barhoum added that Hamas holds the position that national reconciliation should come in tandem with municipal elections.
“Future elections must be a part of reconciliation as it is not logical to hold them without ending division and achieving unity,” he said.
Hamas and Fatah have concluded a number of reconciliation agreements over the past several years, but ultimately failed to implement them.
Muhammad Hassan Jabarin, the PA local governance deputy minister, told The Jerusalem Post the PA has a contingency plan if it is unable to hold elections in some areas on May 13.
“We hope to hold them everywhere on the same day,” he said, “but if we are unable to hold them in certain locales, we will postpone the elections in those particular locales for four weeks.”
Jabarin also said PA President Mahmoud Abbas approved the creation of a new elections court, which will be tasked with reviewing all legal issues pertaining to the elections.
Hamas rejected the new court in early January, saying Palestinian law requires local courts to deal with election- related issues.
The last round of municipal elections in 2012 were boycotted by Hamas, and therefore only took place in the West Bank.
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