Local elections polls open in the West Bank

Miranda GreerMay 15, 2017

The West Bank and Gaza have not participated in an election together since 2006, when Hamas swept Palestinian parliamentary polls, sparking a conflict that almost led to civil war in Gaza the following year.

Ramallah, the Palestinian political capital, saw turnout of less than 40%.

In Nablus, another major city, Fatah won 11 of 15 seats, but only after forming an alliance with Islamist candidates.

The festival will feature 25 films, made by Palestinian, Arab and worldwide artists in Gaza, the West Bank and the Israeli-Arab city of Haifa, said festival spokesman Saud Aburamadan.

Polls were due to close at 7:00 pm and final results are expected on Sunday. East Jerusalem's 300,000 residents didn't take part in the elections.

"The election decision serves only Fatah, and it will never serve the Palestinian democracy", says Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum.

Abbas' presidential term officially ended in 2009, but elections have not been held in Palestine since 2006, when Hamas stood for parliamentary elections and won.

Rival lists also looked to the same electorate.

Even then Fatah only managed convincing wins in a couple of cities, Jenin and Jericho, struggling to even field a list in a lot of cities and having to run joint lists with independents to try to get on the ballot. "Municipalities need qualified people, people who are capable of improving the level of services and meet the growing needs of the people".

Turnout in the Palestinian local elections was about 50 percent, the Central Elections Commission (CEC) said after polls closed on Saturday.

Hamas has rejected the calls for elections saying they will only continue to pull political sensitivities in Palestinian socio-political hemisphere if elections are held before political reconciliation between the two parties. "We are here to start a new generation in Ramallah, a new future for Ramallah, and I hope everybody will vote their conscience".

Electoral worker gives a ballot to a voter at a polling station in the West Bank city of Nablus, Saturday, May 13, 2017.

Tribal loyalties often trump party affiliation at the local level, but Saturday's vote is also seen as a test for the embattled, nepotism-tainted Fatah party of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

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