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March 26, 2022 10:03 am

Palestinians Vote in Second Phase of Municipal Elections

avatar by i24 News

President Mahmoud Abbas gestures during a meeting in Ramallah, in the West Bank August 18, 2020. Photo: REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman/Pool

i24 News – Polls opened on Saturday in cities across the West Bank in a rare democratic exercise following over 15 years of delays to Palestinian elections.

It is the second phase of municipal elections after the first round of voting in December 2021 in 154 West Bank villages.

Saturday’s vote is being held in 50 towns and cities, with many elections uncontested, or without any candidates in some cases.

No legislative or presidential elections have been held in the Palestinian territories since 2005, following repeated delays.

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The last municipal elections, held in 2017, were boycotted by Hamas, the Islamist de facto rulers of Gaza.

Hamas – rival to the Palestinian nationalist, social-democratic party Fatah – is also boycotting this vote in protest of Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas’s indefinite postponement of parliamentary and presidential elections that were scheduled for last year.

The militant group was poised to sweep the parliamentary election, which was widely seen as the real reason for Abbas – a Fatah member – postponing the poll, citing Israel’s refusal to allow voting in eastern Jerusalem.

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

No elections are being held in Gaza or eastern Jerusalem.

“People were disappointed when they delayed the legislative elections. Now they opened this, it’s like a small piece of freedom for them,” said Emad Barahmeh, a local businessman in the West Bank city Jericho.

Hamas and Fatah have been at loggerheads since 2007 when the Islamists seized Gaza.

Today, the Fatah-dominated PA controls parts of the West Bank, where 2.8 million Palestinians live, while the Gaza Strip – an enclave of 2.3 million inhabitants – remains under Hamas control.

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