RAMALLAH, (AFP) – The Palestinian government in the West Bank called Tuesday for local elections to be held in the West Bank and Gaza on October 20, the first since 2006, an official said.
“The Palestinian government decided today during its meeting to hold the local, municipal and district elections on October 20th throughout the Palestinian territory,” the Palestinian official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
The decision followed two such calls for local elections last year, with the Palestinian government in the West Bank seeking to hold the vote first in July 2011 and then in October 2011.
It was at first scheduled for July 9, but after a surprise reconciliation deal between the rival Fatah and the Hamas movements, the date was put back to October 22.
The deal, which was intended to end years of rivalry that has left the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority running the West Bank, while Hamas controls Gaza, called for legislative and presidential elections by May 2012.
The two sides were meant to agree on an interim government of independents to steer the Palestinians towards those elections, but successive disagreements over the make-up of that government stalled the deal’s implementation.
And in July 2011, the Palestinian government in the West Bank said the local elections scheduled at the time for October could not be held in Gaza, accusing Hamas of hampering preparations for the vote.
In August, Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas issued a decree “postponing the local elections indefinitely to pave the way for internal Palestinian reconciliation.”
But Tuesday’s decision comes against the backdrop of continued disagreement between Fatah and Hamas.
After lengthy negotiations, Hamas agreed in May to allow the Central Elections Commission to restart work in the Gaza Strip, registering thousands of new voters in preparation for the votes called for under the reconciliation deal.
But earlier this month, the movement “temporarily suspended” the commission’s work, accusing the Palestinian government in the West Bank of arresting Hamas members there and citing various technical “obstacles.”
The last time the Palestinians went to the polls was for parliamentary elections in 2006, which Hamas won by a landslide.
New parliamentary and presidential elections had been due to be held in January 2010 but the Palestinian Authority abandoned efforts to hold a vote after Hamas refused to organise one in Gaza.