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Palestinian Supreme Court postpones decision on future municipal elections

Sept. 21, 2016 5:20 P.M. (Updated: Sept. 21, 2016 11:07 P.M.)
(File)
RAMALLAH (Ma’an) -- The Palestinian Supreme Court has postponed a decision regarding future municipal elections to Oct. 3, following a request by the public prosecution, after municipal elections set to be held on Oct. 8 were cancelled earlier this month.

Central Elections Commission (CEC) spokesperson Farid Tamallah announced at the Supreme Court in Ramallah on Monday morning that the decision was postponed in order to allow all sides to represent their argument.

The CEC confirmed that it was fully committed to the court's order, declaring that it had suspended all elections procedures pending a final court decision.

Meanwhile, Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri slammed the Palestinian Supreme Court's decision to postpone, saying it was effectively an order to cancel the entire electoral process.

In a statement, Abu Zuhri said that “the Supreme Court is manipulating the electoral process and creating more obstacles to hold future elections, due to the previous past strife over holding elections and Fatah’s disrespect for the electoral process.”

Fatah is the ruling party of the Palestinian Authority (PA), which control the Supreme court and rules the West Bank, while Hamas is the de facto ruling party in the Gaza Strip.

The Supreme Court ruled on Sep. 10 to cancel elections, saying the decision was in response to several appeals submitted by lawyers challenging the legitimacy of elections that would not include occupied East Jerusalem, while other lawyers challenged the legitimacy of elections in the Gaza Strip after a Gaza court dropped five Fatah-affiliated candidates from participating in the local elections there.

Hamas, on the other hand, said that the court decision represented the biased nature of Palestinian elections in Fatah's favor.

The PA-controlled cabinet in the West Bank, dominated by Hamas’ political rival Fatah, announced its decision to hold elections in June, but it remained uncertain whether Hamas and the Gaza Strip would be included in the process, after the movement boycotted the last local elections in 2012 in response to alleged corruption and intimidation among Fatah officials.

In July, Hamas announced their participation in municipal elections, paving the way for elections to be held for the first time in a decade in the small Palestinian territory.

Analysts had claimed that Hamas’ participation in local elections would have signaled the possibility of long-overdue general elections being held in the West Bank and Gaza.

The last elections in the Gaza Strip were held in 2006, when Hamas’ victory led to a violent conflict between Hamas and Fatah, as both groups attempted to take control of the besieged coastal enclave.

Gaza was placed under an Israeli military siege in 2007 following Hamas' victory in the general elections and subsequent takeover of the government. The nearly decade-long siege has severely crippled the economy and further isolated the Gaza Strip from the rest of the Palestinian territory.

The two parties reached a reconciliation agreement in 2014, but its practical implementation was met with failure as a result of Hamas’ wariness at relinquishing control of the Gaza Strip and numerous political disagreements between the two groups.
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