A Palestinian boy waves a flag in the West Bank.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Palestinian Authority government announced on Tuesday that it will hold municipal elections set to take place on May 13 in the West Bank without the Gaza Strip, ending hopes that the Ramallah-based Palestinian governing body would be able to organize the first nationwide elections on the same day since 2006.
The PA, which dominates the West Bank, failed to convince Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, to hold elections in the small coastal enclave.
Over the past several weeks, the PA dispatched Hana Nasser, the chairman of the PA Central Election Commission, Husam Zomlot, an adviser to PA President Mahmoud Abbas, and a number of other officials to Gaza to convince the Hamas leadership to participate in the planned municipal elections and facilitate their taking place in Gaza.
Tariq Rishmawi, a PA government spokesman, squarely placed the blame on Hamas for the elections not taking place in Gaza.
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“Hamas is responsible,” Rishmawi said in a telephone call. “Hamas informed us that it will not allow for elections to take place in the Gaza Strip.”
Yousif Mahmoud, another PA government spokesman, told Wafa, the official state news agency, that Hamas’s decision to bar elections from taking place in Gaza is a “rejection of the reconciliation and denial of our people’s rights.”
For its part, Hamas blasted the PA for its decision to hold elections in the West Bank without Gaza.
“The West Bank government’s decision to hold local elections in the West Bank without Gaza amounts to reinforcing the split,” Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman, said in a press release.
In a separate statement on its Twitter account, Hamas said, “President Abbas, Fatah, and the West Bank government bear full responsibility for all the consequences of this ugly, factional decision.”
The PA originally planned to hold municipal elections in September, but postponed them for four months following disputes over the legitimacy of courts in Gaza between Fatah and Hamas.
Following their postponement, PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah declared that he wanted to find a mechanism to resolve the courts’ issue and hold elections in all Palestinian provinces.
In January, Hamdallah announced the creation of a special court that would bypass the disputed courts in Gaza, a move flatly rejected by Hamas.
Rishmawi said the PA plans to continue its efforts to convince Hamas to hold elections in Gaza at a later date than May 13.
The PA Central Elections Commission said in a statement late Tuesday afternoon that, “[It] hopes in the coming period that local elections will be able to be held in the Gaza Strip,” adding that it is prepared from technical standpoint to hold them.
The last municipal elections in 2012 also only took place in the West Bank with Hamas refusing to participate in or allow them to take place in Gaza.
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