Palestinians vote in local elections amid Hamas boycott

The elections, the first since 2017, are boycotted by Hamas and other Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip.

 Palestinians voting in local elections in northern West Bank town of Burqin, December 11, 2021 (photo credit: KHALED ABU TOAMEH)
Palestinians voting in local elections in northern West Bank town of Burqin, December 11, 2021
(photo credit: KHALED ABU TOAMEH)

The first phase of the Palestinian municipal elections began on Saturday morning as voters headed to polling centers in rural areas of the West Bank.

The elections, the first since 2017, are boycotted by Hamas and other Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip, who protested Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s decision to call off the parliamentary elections that were supposed to take place last May.

Abbas, 86, announced the indefinite postponement of the parliamentary and presidential elections on the pretext that Israel refused to allow the vote to take place in Jerusalem.

PLO official Ahmed Majdalani accused Hamas of obstructing the elections by refusing to allow them to take place in the Gaza Strip. He pointed out that despite the boycott, Hamas supporters have participated in elections for various unions and other bodies in the West Bank.

Saturday’s local elections are the fourth since the establishment of the PA in 1994. 

 A picture taken with a drone shows Hamas supporters taking part in a protest against Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' decision to postpone planned parliamentary elections, in the northern Gaza Strip April 30, 2021. (credit: REUTERS/MOHAMMED SALEM) A picture taken with a drone shows Hamas supporters taking part in a protest against Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' decision to postpone planned parliamentary elections, in the northern Gaza Strip April 30, 2021. (credit: REUTERS/MOHAMMED SALEM)

The second phase of the elections is scheduled to take place in March 2022.

Palestinian Central Elections Commission (CEC) Chairman Hanna Nasser said that the first phase of the elections includes 154 localities. 

In 162 other local councils, the CEC announced the nomination of a sole electoral list in each. These lists will be announced as winners by acclamation when the election results are announced. 

The elections will not take place in 60 other councils due to the incomplete nomination of electoral lists in 10 of them, in addition to 50 localities where no electoral lists were nominated.

Nasser said that the number of eligible voters is 405,687 who are registered in 222 polling centers, which have 717 ballot boxes. 

More than 4,000 employees have been recruited to oversee the voting process, he added. 

More than 570 electoral lists were nominated for the first phase of the local elections, which include 4,480 candidates competing for 1,514 seats. 

Nasser urged voters to cast their ballots, noting that all necessary arrangements and preparations were made to facilitate the arrival of voters to polling centers. In addition, the CEC took precautionary measures to ensure that the voting takes place in accordance with coronavirus health protocols, he said.