The Palestinian government has delayed municipal elections for up to four months with Fatah and Hamas so far unable to overcome divisions to organise their first competitive polls in a decade. The postponement came on Tuesday, a day after the Palestinian high court ruled that the elections, initially scheduled for October 8, should be held only in the West Bank and not in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. A new date for the vote was not set by the government based in the West Bank, the Palestinian territory run by President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party. The Palestinian Central Elections Commission and the United Nations special representative welcomed the postponement, saying they were hopeful that Gaza would now be included in the eventual vote. The Palestinians have not held an election in which both Hamas and Fatah took part since 2006. They have also not held a vote in both the West Bank and Gaza Strip at the same time since then.
“The Palestinian cabinet, in consultation with President Mahmoud Abbas, decided to postpone the local elections for [up to] four months,” Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah said in a statement.
Hamas rejected the postponement and said the delay and the decision not to hold the polls in Gaza were Fatah manoeuvrings to avoid an electoral defeat.
Hamas, labelled as a “terrorist organisation” by the United States and European Union, had planned to support lists of candidates not officially linked to the movement to avoid potential sanctions if they won. It was not clear if Hamas would still attempt to do so.