The results of the first phase of the Palestinian municipal elections in the West Bank showed that independent lists won 70% of the seats.
The ruling Fatah faction declared victory, while Hamas said that some of its supporters gained significant achievements.
Hamas officially boycotted the elections and did not allow them to be held in the Gaza Strip.
Despite the boycott, Hamas-affiliated candidates contested the elections and won seats in several councils.
Some Palestinians described the results as a “major defeat” for Fatah.
The elections, the first of their kind since 2017, took place on Saturday in 154 villages and towns in the rural area of the West Bank. Electoral lists in 162 areas won by acclamation because each one had only one sole slate.
Fatah officials said that many of their supporters and members ran on an independent ticket or as part of family slates. They argued that this was enough to back up their claim that Fatah won the vote.
The final voter turnout percentage of the elections reached 66% out of 405,687 eligible voters, said Hanna Nasser, Chairman of the Palestinian Central Elections Commission (CEC).
The total number of voters reached 268,318, Nasser said during a press conference in El-Bireh, the twin city of Ramallah.
The CEC said that the results demonstrate that independent lists won 70.86% of the total contested council seats of 1,503, whereas partisan lists got 29.14% of seats.
The second phase of the elections will take place in 66 municipal councils on March 26, 2022.
Several Fatah officials and candidates, who ran under the banner “Construction and Liberation,” were quick to declare victory after the announcement of the results.
“This is a landslide victory for Fatah,” said Fatah activist Omar al-Haj. “The results of the local elections show that Fatah and the Palestinian Authority leadership enjoy the confidence and support of a majority of our people.”
A statement by Fatah described the results as a “referendum on [Fatah’s] democratic and unifying strategy, and a renewal of the confidence of our people in Fatah and its leadership, first and foremost President Mahmoud Abbas.”
Eyad Jarad, a Fatah leader from the northern West Bank city of Tulkarm claimed that his faction won all the council seats in the area.
“This is a democratic victory,” Jarad said in an interview with a local radio station. “The elections are part of the Palestinian national struggle. The elections are a national wedding.”
Shadi Mtour, a senior Fatah official from east Jerusalem, described the results of the municipal elections as a “blow to all those who predicted that this would be the end of Fatah and its national enterprise.”
The Palestinians, Mtour said, have “renewed their confidence in Fatah, which places the Palestinians at the top of its priorities and fights only with the occupation.”
Some Palestinians, however, said that the results showed that Fatah continues to suffer from deep divisions.
They pointed out that several Fatah members chose to run as part of independent or family lists because they were unhappy with the composition of the faction’s official electoral lists.
“Fatah has not learned from its previous mistakes,” said a Palestinian political analyst from Ramallah. “If I were a member of Fatah, I wouldn’t be celebrating today. Fatah lost the 2006 parliamentary elections because of internal disputes that led some of its members to run outside the faction’s official list.”
Hussein Abu Kweik, a senior Hamas official in the West Bank, said that opposition lists and candidates scored a “landslide victory” in many places of the West Bank.
The results of the elections, Abu Kweik said, “constitute a painful blow to these responsible for security coordination [with Israel].”
He predicted that the PA would not rush to hold any elections in the near future to “avoid additional defeats.”
Abu Kwiek explained that Hamas decided to officially boycott the municipal elections in protest of Abbas’s decision earlier this year to call off the general elections.
Hassan Yusef, also a senior Hamas official in the West Bank, confirmed that supporters of his group participated in the elections despite the boycott.
Yusef claimed that candidates affiliated with his groups made “remarkable” achievements in the elections.
Although Hamas boycotted the elections, it “opened the way for its members and supporters to participate in Saturday’s vote,” he disclosed.
The results of the elections show that the Palestinians have “rallied around the resistance,” Yusef said.
He claimed that a number of Fatah leaders expressed disappointment with the results and described them as a big defeat for their faction.