Palestinians vote in local elections amid growing anger with Abbas

Russian President Vladimir Putin meets Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Sochi
FILE PHOTO: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas attends a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi, Russia November 23, 2021. Sputnik / Evgeny Biyatov / Kremlin via REUTERS

December 11, 2021

By Rami Ayyub and Ali Sawafta

RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) – Palestinians held municipal elections in the occupied West Bank on Saturday in a rare demonstration of democracy and amid growing anger with President Mahmoud Abbas after he canceled the legislative and presidential votes that had been scheduled for earlier this year.

More than 400,000 Palestinians have qualified to vote to represent 154 village councils in the West Bank, where Abbas’s Palestinian Authority has limited autonomy. Municipal elections are usually held every four or five years.

However, elections were not held in Gaza, where the Islamic ruler Hamas is boycotting the vote amid a rift with Abbas’s Fatah party. And the 86-year-old leader has delayed votes in major West Bank cities, such as Ramallah, where Fatah’s performance will be seen as a referendum on his right to rule.

Ahmad Issa, 23, outside a polling station in the village of Bir Nabala, said: “These elections are not a substitute for legislative elections. “We need (legislative) elections, to give youth opportunities, and to implement reforms, legislation and change.”

Abbas, already sagging in opinion polls, sparked widespread anger in April when he canceled Presidential and legislative elections are scheduled for the summer, citing Israel’s restriction of Palestinians voting in East Jerusalem.

Abbas’s opponents, including Hamas, accuse him of using the Jerusalem voting dispute as an excuse to cancel elections in which polls show he and his party will lose to the Islamist group. Abbas, who has ruled by decree for more than a decade, denies this.

A spokesman for Hamas, which boycotted previous municipal elections in 2012 and 2017, said in a statement that the group “refuses to participate in partial elections tailored to Fatah.” and conducted by the PA,” urged Abbas to reschedule the ballots that were canceled for the summer. .

Hamas has gained prominence in the West Bank and East Jerusalem since fighting an 11-day war with Israel in May. The group won this year’s student council elections at several of the top West Coast colleges, a key barometer of support.

Palestinians seek state status in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, territory Israel captured in the 1967 war. Israel annexed East Jerusalem in a move not recognized internationally and peace talks Peace between the two sides broke down in 2014.

Hamas won the last Palestinian legislative election, in 2006. That formed the basis for a political rift: Hamas took Gaza after a brief civil war with Fatah in 2007 and ruled. coastal areas since then.

(Additional reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza; Editing by Frances Kerry) Palestinians vote in local elections amid growing anger with Abbas


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