JAFFA, Israel – A Palestinian court decision to suspend next month’s local elections in the West Bank was the result of grave concerns among Fatah politicians that they may lose to Hamas, a top Fatah official told Breitbart Jerusalem.
On Thursday, a court in Ramallah upheld a petition against the elections, saying that as long as Hamas rules the Gaza Strip by force and fails to approve Fatah candidates there, the elections could not go ahead.
In July, Hamas announced it would take part in the elections, scheduled for October, after the Islamic movement boycotted the last elections in 2012, which resulted in a sweeping Fatah victory.
In 2005, Hamas candidates won in most councils in the West Bank and Gaza, then still under unified rule, though they were ousted from the West Bank by Fatah following their movement’s violent takeover of the Gaza Strip in 2007.
In its announcement, Hamas said it would strive to form coalitions and joint lists with experts and organizationally unaffiliated professionals for the benefit of the Palestinian citizenry.
Over the weekend, Hamas released a statement blaming Fatah for pressuring the court.
“Fatah’s evasion from holding the elections as planned by appealing to the court, which is not authorized to rule on this matter, is a devastating blow to the democratic process,” Hamas spokesperson Dr Sami Abu Zuhri said in the statement. “Fatah must stop undermining the elections and start abiding by the law, as well as the decisions of the central election committee and the relevant courts.”
A senior Fatah official told Breitbart Jerusalem that the court’s decision wasn’t entirely substantive.
“I am aware of Hamas’ accusations that the decision was imposed by Fatah, and I don’t want to argue over it, but I won’t deny that the court was well aware of Fatah’s palpable fear of defeat,” he said.
Yes, the decision serves us, and we should have an election, but it’s more important to prepare for it so that it wouldn’t play into the hands of the enemies of the Palestinian people on the Israeli side as well as those at home who want to use it as a stick to bash the Authority, to weaken and harm the legitimacy of our leadership that is often accused by Israel of having little popular support. And if the court is the way to prevent an embarrassing and worrisome farce, so be it.
In July, Breitbart Jerusalem reported that Fatah officials feared a Hamas victory that would allow the opposition movement to return to center stage in the West Bank after Palestinian and Israeli intelligence managed to curb its activities for several years.
The fear of defeat, following Hamas’ declaration in July, was exacerbated by growing divisions within Fatah, including several candidates who decided to withdraw from Fatah lists and run independently.