Palestinians vote in second section of municipal elections

RAMALLAH, Palestinian Territories: Voters forged ballots Saturday in cities and cities of the Israeli-occupied West Financial institution in a uncommon democratic train following a decade and a half of delays to Palestinian elections.
It’s the second section of municipal elections after a primary spherical of voting in December in 154 West Financial institution villages.
Saturday’s vote is being held in 50 cities and cities, with many elections uncontested, or with none candidates in some instances.
Wasfi Ramhi, voting within the metropolis of Al-Bireh, mentioned he hoped it will result in nationwide elections.
“If they’re democratic, honest and free, they’ll assist us to carry legislative and presidential elections,” he mentioned.
No legislative or presidential elections have been held within the Palestinian territories for 15 years, following repeated delays.
The final municipal elections, held in 2017, had been boycotted by Hamas, the Islamist rulers of the Gaza Strip.
Hamas can be boycotting this vote in protest at president Mahmud Abbas’s indefinite postponement of parliamentary and presidential elections that had been scheduled for final yr.
The Islamists had been poised to brush the parliamentary election, which was broadly seen as the actual cause for Abbas’s Eleventh-hour postponement of the ballot, citing Israel’s refusal to permit voting in annexed east Jerusalem.
Abbas’s presidential time period was supposed to finish in 2009.
Central Elections Fee chief Hanna Nasser mentioned various candidates had been arrested within the lead-up to the vote.
“There are candidates who had been arrested earlier than at present,” Nasser mentioned. “This means blatant interference within the election course of.”
“The arrests had been made for political causes to forestall sure candidates from working within the elections,” he advised a information convention.
No elections are being held in Gaza or Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem.
Within the Jordan Valley metropolis of Jericho, independents dominate the candidate lists, with established events formally staying away, a dynamic mirrored throughout the West Financial institution.
“Often there are only one or two lists working — and so they belong to the events. This time there are 5 lists, lots of them independents,” mentioned Emad Barahmeh, a businessman who heads one of many impartial lists working in Jericho.
But specialists say Hamas and Fatah, the secular occasion led by Abbas, are nonetheless concerned, working candidates beneath the desk as independents.
“It’s also noticeable that the assorted Palestinian factions are clearly absent from working for these elections, however their candidates have entered beneath the title of independents,” Talab Awad, an professional on Palestinian elections, mentioned.
“There are candidates from the Hamas motion in these elections, however they’re doing so personally,” Awad mentioned, including participation would probably be “excessive.”
The businessman Barahmeh mentioned the delayed legislative elections had left individuals “upset” and Saturday’s vote was “like a small piece of freedom for them.”
Hamas and Fatah have been at loggerheads since 2007 when the Islamists seized Gaza after per week of lethal clashes.
Right this moment, the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority has management over elements of the occupied West Financial institution, the place 2.9 million Palestinians reside, whereas the Gaza Strip, an enclave of two.3 million inhabitants beneath Israeli blockade, stays beneath Hamas management.

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