Palestinian court to decide fate of local elections: minister

Palestinian court to decide fate of local elections: minister
A Palestinian minister has confirmed the fate of much-anticipated local elections will be determined on September 21, after a top court suspended scheduled balloting due to Fatah-Hamas rivalry.
3 min read
09 September, 2016
Palestinian court suspended elections set for October 8 after Fatah-Hamas disputes [AFP]
Palestine’s most senior court is expected to decide the fate of much-anticipated local elections on September 21, after the latest attempt to hold polls was suspended, a minister said late Thursday.

The high court suspended the municipal elections - originally scheduled for October 8 - following ongoing disputes between the rival Fatah and Hamas movements.

"The Supreme Court will consider (the case) in a session on Wednesday 21 September and make a definitive and final decision," local government minister Hussein al-Araj told the official Palestinian news agency Wafa.

"We will implement any decision of the court in accordance with the applicable laws."

The high court said it had suspended the elections after an appeal by lawyer Nael al-Houh who raised concerns on the elections being held in Jerusalem, which could cause complications to polling in the Gaza strip.

In Gaza, a court run by Hamas cancelled Fatah candidate lists in several municipalities for "violating the election law", according to a judicial source and a spokesman for Fatah.

Jamal Dajani, a spokesman for the prime minister in the Fatah-run government in Ramallah, downplayed suggestions of political pressure to cancel the elections.

"We look at it as a judicial decision and not a political decision," he told AFP, noting the court had made its decision independently.

"The president, the prime minister and the central elections committee were proceeding with organising the elections for October 8."

Arif Jaffal, head of the Marsad elections monitoring group NGO, called Thursday's announcement a "sad day for Palestinians."

The electorate is expecting the local elections to move towards (ending) the political stalemate between the West Bank and Gaza.

He said the electorate was "expecting the local elections to move towards (ending) the political stalemate between the West Bank and Gaza."

The Hamas movement, which runs the Gaza Strip, boycotted the last Palestinian municipal elections in 2012, but had been due to participate this year.

Hamas has rejected the suspension, calling it a "political decision."

An official from the Hamas movement told The New Arab's correspondent in Gaza, Diaa Kahlout, that it was a "politically-motivated decision attempting to save face for Fatah after a number of them were dropped from electoral committees and courts".

The National Front for the Liberation of Palestine called for the issues that will now arise to be addressed "in a responsible manner that will not undercut democratic processes".

Fatah and Hamas have not contested an election since the 2006 parliamentary polls that saw Hamas victorious over their rivals.

The results sparked a conflict that eventually led to fierce fighting in Gaza the following year, forcing Fatah forces out of the besieged city.

In 2011, attempts to hold local elections were abandoned.

This year's vote was planned with 81-year-old president and Fatah leader Mahmud Abbas under heavy political pressure as opinion polls have suggested most Palestinians would like him to step down.

There has been no Palestinian presidential election since 2005 and Abbas has remained in office despite the expiry of his term in 2009.