Palestinian court excludes Gaza from local elections

Judge says judiciary in Gaza Strip cannot give necessary 'guarantees' needed to hold polls, however, gives West Bank the go-ahead to elect municipal councils.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Palestine’s top court amended a September ruling and allowed local elections to take place in the West Bank but not Gaza Strip. Hamas has swiftly condemned the court ruling as ‘political’.

The Palestinian high court on Monday ordered municipal elections to be held only in the Fatah-run West Bank and not in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. The Fatah government is led by President Mahmoud Abbas.

Two petitions were filed early September requesting the court to suspend local government elections in both areas. The court ruled the polls would not go ahead as planned. The petitions followed disputes between Fatah and Hamas over candidate lists and the inability to hold the vote in East Jerusalem, which is annexed by Israel.

However, on Monday the court "decided to implement the cabinet's decision to hold elections in all local councils except in the Gaza Strip".

Residents were meant to elect members of municipal councils in some 416 cities and towns in Gaza and the occupied West Bank on October 8.

Local government elections were seen as an opportunity by some analysts to mend ties between Hamas and Fatah. Both parties have failed to bridge their differences and form a unified administration for the Palestinian territories despite repeated reconciliation attempts.

Why just the West Bank?

On Monday, court president Hisham al Hatoo said the judiciary in Gaza did not have necessary "guarantees" in place for the holding of the polls. A new date for the municipal polls has not been set.

Hamas immediately dismissed Monday's decision as "political".

"The high court's decision on the elections is discriminatory and ratifies the division" between Gaza and the West Bank, it said in a statement.

The Fatah government announced plans three months ago to hold municipal elections. These would be the first polls since parliamentary elections in 2006 in which both Hamas and Fatah would participate.

Hamas boycotted the last Palestinian municipal elections in 2012, but it had been scheduled to participate this year. 

TRTWorld and agencies