W. Bank municipal elections delayed

Fatah could not agree on candidates, Hamas had banned vote in Gaza.

PA flag 298.88 (photo credit: )
PA flag 298.88
(photo credit: )
In a surprise move Thursday, the Palestinian Authority decided to call off municipal elections slated for next month in the West Bank.
The decision came one day after the meeting in Washington between PA President Mahmoud Abbas and US President Barack Obama. The PA did not give any reason for the decision, but said a new date for the voting would be set later.
The decision, announced by the PA government in Ramallah, contradicts the Palestinian leadership¹s previous promises that the vote would take place on time.
The elections were scheduled to take place only in the West Bank on July 17. Hamas, which had decided to boycott the vote, announced that it wouldn’t allow the elections to take place in the Gaza Strip.
Several other Palestinian organizations, including Islamic Jihad, also declared their intention to boycott the local elections.
The decision to call off the elections was announced on the last day set for candidates and lists to present their candidacies. Palestinian sources told The Jerusalem Post that the decision had been made due to deep divisions in Fatah and because many of the faction’s candidates had been planning to run as independents, which was one of the reasons why Fatah lost the January 2006 parliamentary election.
“Fatah could not agree on the candidates who were supposed to represent it in the municipal election,” said one source. “In the past few weeks, there has been increased tension in Fatah because of the election. Too many people wanted to run.”
Another source said that Hamas’s decision to ban the vote in the Gaza Strip, as well as its intention to stay away from the ballot boxes, was another reason behind the decision to cancel the election.
“Holding an election in the West Bank alone would have consolidated the split between the West Bank and Gaza Strip,” the source explained. “And because Fatah was running almost alone, it would have looked like a joke in the eyes of many Palestinians.”
The decision to call off the election drew angry reactions from many Palestinians, some of whom considered it an admission of failure on the part of Abbas and Prime Minister Salaam Fayad. The Palestinian Election Monitoring Committee criticized the decision as“illegal and undemocratic,” adding that the decision would plunge Palestinian society into political turmoil and deepen social divisions. It called on the PA leadership to reconsider its position.
Mustafa Barghouti, secretary-general of the Palestinian National Initiative, condemned the decision as a “big mistake,: saying it was both unacceptable and harmful to democracy.
Hatem Abdel Kader, a Fatah legislator, told the Post that the decision was apparently related to renewed efforts to end the power struggle between Hamas and Fatah. He said Abbas and the PA leadership wanted to give Hamas another chance to accept an Egyptian proposal for ending the crisis with Fatah.
Muhammad Madani, another Fatah official, said that the decision to cancel the election came in response to Arab and Islamic pressure on the PA leadership to wait until the crisis with Hamas was resolved. Denying that Fatah was afraid of contesting the vote, Madani said his faction had succeeded in forming lists of candidates in more than 80 percent of the areas in the West Bank.