Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (R) talks with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Palestinian Authority High Court of Justice ruled on Monday that municipal elections will take place in the West Bank only, according to Wafa, the official PA news agency.
The High Court said in its ruling: "In order not to relinquish the opportunity to hold elections while maintaining the legitimate rights of citizens in (participating) - because relinquishing the elections is relinquishing the public interest - the High Court decides to implement the cabinet's decision... to hold elections in all councils of the homeland except for Gaza."
Municipal elections were supposed to take place in both the West Bank and Gaza Strip on October 8, but the High Court suspended them on September 10, citing the exclusion of Jerusalem from the electoral process and concerns about courts in the Gaza Strip.
The High Court said that a new date for the elections will be set in the coming month.
The PA Central Election Commission (CEC) said that “it respects the decision of the High Court of Justice,” but clarified that it believes “it will increase the sharpness of the division between the two regions of the homeland and harm the general interest and the democratic process in Palestine."
In a letter to President Mahmoud Abbas, the CEC recommended the postponement of the municipal elections for six months so that the "internal Palestinian house can be arranged.”
Chairman of the Fatah Revolutionary Council Amin Maqboul told Dunya al-Watan, a Palestinian news site, that “his movement will study the decision of the court to stop the elections in Gaza and hold them in the West Bank.”
“We will see what is appropriate and accomplishes positive [outcomes] for our people.”
Deputy Chairman of the Hamas Politburo Musa Abu Marzouk said on Twitter that the High Court’s decision is politicized. “The decision of the High Court of Justice in holding elections in the West Bank without Gaza is politicization of the judiciary and deepening of the division,” Abu Marzouk said, adding, “The division is rejected by the nation.”
Municipal elections only took place in the West Bank in 2012 with Hamas boycotting them, leading to a low voter turnout relative to previous elections.
In the past few weeks, a number of Fatah leaders had said if the court cannot resolve the outstanding issues with Gaza’s courts, elections should still happen in the West Bank.
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post
on September 10, Abbas Zaki, a Fatah Central Committee Member said, “We hope that the occupation will disappear and the homeland will unify and that elections will take place everywhere, but in order to continue the democratic process, transparent elections should still take place in the West Bank.”
An overwhelming majority of Palestinians wanted the municipal elections to take place in the West Bank and Gaza on October, according to a Arab World for Research and Development (AWRAD) poll sampling 1,200 persons from the West Bank and Gaza in September.
In particular, the poll found that 76 percent of Palestinians, 74% of West Bank and 78% of Gaza Palestinians, wanted the elections to take place on time in both the West Bank and Gaza.