Palestinians vote in municipal elections,
Around half a million Palestinians Saturday went to the ballot
booths to elect 93 municipal councils in the West Bank in the
first municipal elections held in the territory since 2005.
However, the Gaza Strip ruled by Islamic Hamas movement has been
President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah movement has announced victory of
most council seats in local elections in the West Bank boycotted
by rival party Hamas.
"We consider the victory as a major popular referendum on the
movement's political programme and its national performance," a
statement from Fatah spokesman Ahmad Assaf said today.
supporters in the West Bank celebrated the victory after
publication of initial results.
The vote was held in 93 towns and
villages. Central Elections Commission (CEC) President Hanna
Nasser said official results would be announced later on Sunday.
Nasser said that 54.8 per cent of eligible West Bank voters, whose
number reached more than 500,000, had turned out to vote.
Fatah's victory was expected as it ran almost uncontested after
the Hamas movement, which controls the Gaza Strip, boycotted the
vote. Hamas banned voting in the Gaza Strip and said it would not
recognize the results in the West Bank. It refused to take part
following the collapse of unity talks with Fatah.
It left Fatah
pitted against independents and leftist groups such as the Popular
Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and the Democratic
Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP).
Saturday's vote was only held in 93 of the West Bank's 354
municipalities, as candidates in another 179 localities were
appointed unopposed. Elections in the remaining 82 areas will be
held on November 24, the CEC said.
While some Palestinians
welcomed the opportunity to vote, others were skeptical about the
prospect of change.
"I don't expect much from these elections
despite what I hoped for because there aren't any qualified
candidates," said 60-year-old Mohammed Zahdeh from Hebron.
is a farce, not an election," said Abu Abdullah, a 56-year-old
trader from Nablus. "We want real elections that represent us,
where people are capable of serving their country, and don't just
bandy around political slogans."
Abbas, after voting at a school in El-Bireh near Ramallah,
expressed disappointment that the election was not taking place in
the Gaza Strip.
"We hope our brothers in Hamas will let the
democratic process take place in Gaza, not only for local
elections but also for presidential and parliamentary elections,"
For its part, Hamas said holding the vote solely in the
West Bank served only to cement the divide between the two main
political movements in the Palestinian territories.
elections reinforce the division and have nothing to do with the
national consensus," Fawzi Barhum, Hamas spokesman, told the AFP
Holding elections without Gaza meant the results would have "no
significance or legitimacy," he added.
"These are not elections
for the Palestinian people but for Fatah." Robert Serry, UN peace
envoy, said it was "important" that Palestinians had the
opportunity to vote in long-overdue local elections "and to
participate in decisions that directly affect their daily lives".
He expressed hope the poll would "serve as a prelude to general
elections being organised next year in all of the occupied
Palestinian territory in the context of reconciliation" between Hamas and Fatah.
Around 2,000 members of the security
forces were deployed for the vote and a similar number of
observers monitored the process, 130 from overseas, officials