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Palestinian municipal elections in West Bank, Gaza scheduled for December

Electoral commission says vote depends on Hamas allowing poll to take place in the Strip

Illustrative: A Palestinian man casts his vote in the municipal elections in the West Bank town of Al-Bireh on October 20, 2012. (Issam Rimawi/Flash90)
Illustrative: A Palestinian man casts his vote in the municipal elections in the West Bank town of Al-Bireh on October 20, 2012. (Issam Rimawi/Flash90)

RAMALLAH, West Bank — The Palestinian electoral commission announced municipal elections will be held in December in the West Bank and Gaza, if Hamas allows the vote to take place in the enclave.

The last municipal vote was held in the West Bank four years ago, but Hamas, the Islamist terror group that rules the Gaza Strip, has prevented such an election since seizing power in 2007.

“We have set the electoral calendar, but we do not know if Hamas will allow the organization of municipal elections in Gaza,” said Farid Taamallah, spokesperson for the electoral commission, an independent body based in Ramallah.

“We are waiting for the Palestinian government to coordinate with Gaza and inform us of what will be decided,” he told AFP.

Hamas and the secular Fatah party of Mahmoud Abbas, president of the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority, have been at loggerheads since the 2007 coup.

The municipal vote would take place in 387 localities throughout the West Bank and Gaza on December 11, and then in 90 other places at a later date that has yet to be set, Taamallah said.

Of the 477 voting sites, just 11 were in Gaza, he noted.

Refugee camps in the West Bank and Gaza would not be affected by the municipal elections because they are managed by UNRWA, a UN agency.

In April, Abbas postponed a legislative and presidential election set for May and July which was to be the first of its kind in 15 years, saying Israel had not provided assurances it would let Palestinians in East Jerusalem participate.

Abbas’s presidential term was supposed to end in 2009.

Hamas had blasted Abbas’s postponement as a “coup against (their) partnership,” and said he “would bear full responsibility for the decision and its consequences.”

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