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Palestinian Local Elections Held amid Extended Hamas Boycott | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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A Palestinian man casts his ballot paper for the municipal elections at a polling station in the West Bank town of Ramallah, May 13, 2017. EPA/ALAA BADARNEH

Ramallah- Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah expressed on Saturday the government’s hope for Hamas to accept the initiative brought forth by President Mahmoud Abbas on forming a national unity government.

Palestinians in the West Bank held on Saturday local elections with Fatah again running without Hamas providing opposition, or letting the poll go ahead in the Gaza Strip. PM Hamdallah said that Gaza was left behind due to Hamas’ continued refusal.

Palestinians voted for their municipality and council representatives in the West Bank—the last round of elections was in 2012, which Hamas also boycotted.

These are the second consecutive municipal elections to be held without the participation of Hamas or the Gaza Strip. The last time all Palestinians took part in a municipal poll at the same time was in 2006.

Abbas’ invitation for the return of Hamas to Palestinian elections was motivated by the group having recently reshaped its charter and elected Ismail Haniyeh as the head of its Political Bureau.

Hamdallah called on Palestinian citizens to go to the polling stations and cast their vote, thanking the security bodies for their efforts to keep the elections process secure.

“Today, we send a message to the international community that our people deserve an independent state like the rest of the world,” he said.

“Palestinian leadership, headed by Abbas, was determined on holding local elections on time –which was on Oct 8- in both Gaza and the West Bank.

However, Hamas refused, preventing the government from holding elections, and eventually postponing them to May 13,” added Hamdallah.

“Yet Hamas has once again refused holding local elections in Gaza,” he said.

Voting for several hundred municipal councils opened at schools across the West Bank at 7:00 a.m. local time [0500 UTC]. Polls for the 800,000 eligible voters closed at 7:00 p.m. with final results expected on Sunday.