Palestinian High Court suspends municipal elections

The elections were supposed to take place in 416 locales on October 8, but have been suspended until an undetermined date.

September 8, 2016 12:54
2 minute read.

A Gaza man reads a newspaper, featuring the Israeli election on its front page, in Khan Younis, March 18.. (photo credit: IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA / REUTERS)

The Palestinian Authority municipal elections in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip have been suspended, putting the holding of the long-awaited contests in jeopardy.

The PA High Court of Justice said it suspended the elections, scheduled for October 8, because of the exclusion of Jerusalem from the electoral process, and amid concerns about the legality of local courts in Gaza.

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“In light of the deprivation of Jerusalem and its suburbs’ citizens of their electoral rights, and [concerns about] the legality of decisions taken by courts in the Gaza Strip...

We rule to suspend temporarily the Palestinian government’s decision to hold elections,” said a copy of Thursday’s ruling published on Wafa, the official Palestinian news site.

Israel informed the PA in July that it will not allow it to hold elections in any part of Jerusalem.

The PA High Court will hold another hearing regarding the future of the elections on September 21.

The PA Central Elections Commission announced that it has stopped all its operations pertaining to the municipal elections. A statement on the CEC website read that “the commission respects the decision of the High Court, and hopes that it will not be long until the resumption of the electoral process.”

Fatah spokesman Osama Qawasmeh blamed Hamas for the suspension of the elections.

“Hamas put forth a complete plan to make the municipal elections fail through its summonings, blackmail, arrests and threats,” Qawasmeh said, adding that Hamas had always planned not to run in the elections because it knew it would lose.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri denounced the decision to suspend the vote. “The ruling of the High Court in Ramallah is politicized and part of an effort to save Fatah,” he said.

“The ruling is unacceptable.”

Tensions between Hamas and Fatah came to a head after the Central Elections Commission disqualified four Fatah lists in the Gaza Strip earlier this week.

The commission instructed Fatah to appeal the disqualifications to local Gazan courts, but Fatah leader Faisal Abu Shahala refused, saying his movement will not recognize Hamas-run institutions in the Strip.

On Thursday morning, a Hamas-run court in the southern Gaza Strip disqualified five additional Fatah lists, leading another Fatah spokesman, Fayez Abu Aitah, to say Hamas carried out “a massacre” against Fatah.

Hamas’s Abu Zuhri responded, calling on Fatah “to respect” the decisions of the Gazan courts.

Hisham Sharabati, a Palestinian activist and researcher from Hebron, told The Jerusalem Post that the suspension of the elections reflects the weak state of the PA.

“Many Palestinians are asking what the PA’s plan is,” he said.

“If it cannot hold municipal elections, how can we expect the PA to hold parliamentary and presidential elections?” Sharabati suggested the PA would have a better chance at holding local elections if Fatah and Hamas first settled their differences. “Despite the occupation and its interventions in the Palestinian political system, I believe that the way to holding elections starts with reconciliation and consensus,” he said.

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