(AFP) – The Palestinian government decided on Tuesday to delay the first municipal elections in a decade, originally scheduled for October 8, by several months. This announcement comes a day after the Palestinian High Judicial Council ruled that elections could only take place in the West Bank and not in Gaza.
Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah (pictured) addressed journalists on Tuesday immediately after the weekly cabinet meeting, held exceptionally in Hebron this week. He said, “The Palestinian government decided, in coordination with President Mahmoud Abbas, to hold the municipal elections within four months to guarantee the necessary legally circumstances.”
NIckolay Mladenov, United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, welcomed the delay, commenting that the delay should serve the Palestinians “to work together in good faith to overcome divisions” so that the elections can take place both in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
However, the governmental announcement left the impression that Gaza would remain outside the vote. According to an official from the electoral commission, the entire process could be restarted from zero in four months, meaning that the electoral lists may have to reassembled.
Hamas immediately rejected the government’s decision and said that it was “opposed to any postponement of elections,” after having denounced the Palestinian high court’s Monday ruling as a “political decision.”
The international community incessantly pressures the Palestinians to reconcile between Fatah and Hamas, because their inability to present a common front is a major obstacle to continuing the peace process with the Israelis.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri gave a press conference in which he accused this delay of showing that the government “wants to evade the election results, all in the sole partisan interests of Fatah.”
Gazan political scientist Mukhaimer Abu Saada, a Gazan political scientist, told AFP, “If we don’t reach a consensus between Fatah and Hamas, the most likely scenario is the cancellation of the elections.”