The Palestinian Authority announced Tuesday that municipal elections scheduled for May 13 will be held only in the West Bank and not in Gaza.
This will be the second time in a row that Palestinian local elections will be held solely in the West Bank, after the Hamas terror group, which rules the Gaza Strip, boycotted municipal elections in 2012.
Municipal elections had been slated to be held in the West Bank and Gaza last October, but were postponed after a court decision last year, with Fatah and Hamas trading blame over the delay.
Earlier in February, Hamas said it would refuse to participate in the elections unless PA President Mahmoud Abbas agreed to loosen what the terror group called his “security grip” over Hamas cadres in the West Bank.
Hamas also demanded Abbas restore Palestinian elections laws formulated in 2005.
Abbas’s presidential decree in January that set local elections for May 13 amended Palestinian election law. It created a special electoral cases court that would preside over matters connected to the elections.
Gaza courts canceled several electoral slates for Abbas’s Fatah party in September. The move was rejected by Fatah.
Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum, in a statement posted to the group’s official website, said the decision to hold elections just in the West Bank “is a recipe for division… and confirms this government’s incapacity to take care of the interests of the Palestinian people.”
He added that Abbas’s decision to form a electoral cases court “distorted the natural path for the electoral process.”
The rival parties have not participated together in an election since 2006 parliamentary polls, which Hamas won — sparking a conflict that led to near civil war in Gaza the following year.
Since then, reconciliation attempts have repeatedly failed.
According to local opinion polls and political experts, Hamas — which has been enjoying unusual popularity in the West Bank and remains well-supported in Gaza — was expected to make significant gains in the elections.
Agencies contributed to this report.