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Over 200,000 Palestinians cast ballots in rare West Bank municipal elections

Vote limited to rural areas after Mahmoud Abbas delays voting in cities, amid simmering anger toward the Fatah-controlled PA

A Palestinian man votes at a polling station in Beit Dajan, east of Nablus in the northern West Bank, on December 11, 2021. (Jaafar Ashtiyeh/AFP)
A Palestinian man votes at a polling station in Beit Dajan, east of Nablus in the northern West Bank, on December 11, 2021. (Jaafar Ashtiyeh/AFP)

RAMALLAH, West Bank — Palestinians took part in rare municipal elections across the West Bank on Saturday, following months of simmering anger toward their government and the cancellation of promised parliamentary and presidential elections earlier this year.

Some 400,000 Palestinians were eligible to vote in the election to select representatives for 154 village councils under the jurisdiction of the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority. Municipal elections are typically held every four to five years and last took place in 2017.

The increasingly unpopular president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, confined the election to rural municipalities, postponing voting in the West Bank’s major cities where anger towards his ruling Fatah party is most acute.

Saturday’s elections were also boycotted by the terror group Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip. Hamas’s spokesman, Abdulatif al-Qanou, told the Associated Press that the group wants parliamentary and presidential elections and considers holding the municipal vote alone a violation of previous agreements.

The vote does not “satisfy the inspiration and needs of the Palestinian people,“ he said.

Polling stations closed at 7:00 p.m., with nearly 65 percent of the 405,000 eligible voters, or 263,000 people, casting ballots, according to the elections committee.

Results will be announced Sunday afternoon, it said.

The municipal vote is widely considered inconsequential, as most candidates are running as independents and Hamas is not taking part.

The popularity of the PA government has plummeted since Abbas canceled long-awaited legislative and parliamentary elections in April. Abbas blamed the cancellation on uncertainty around whether Palestinians from East Jerusalem would be able to vote, although critics accused him of postponing out of fear that his party would lose to Hamas.

Palestinians are pictured at a polling station during municipal elections in the village of Baitain, east of the West Bank city of Ramallah, on December 11, 2021. (Abbas Momani/AFP)

Popularity for the terror group has surged among Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem since May’s 11-day war, with many accusing the Palestinian Authority of doing little to aid their struggle against Israel.

Anger towards the government has been further inflamed by the growing crackdown on political dissent, following the death of Palestinian Authority critic Nizar Banat, who died after being beaten by Palestinian security forces. The event ignited widespread demonstrations calling for Abbas’s resignation.

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