PA set to announce local elections in West Bank, Gaza Strip

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Photo – Mohamad Torokman/Reuters

The Palestinian Authority is set to hold local elections in the West Bank and Gaza on 20 October after a lapse of six years, the first since 2006, an official said on Tuesday.

“The Palestinian government decided today during its meeting to hold the local, municipal and district elections on October 20th throughout the Palestinian territory,” the Palestinian official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

The decision will follow two earlier attempts for local elections last year, when the PA, based in West Bank town of Ramallah, wanted to hold the vote first in July 2011 and then in October 2011.

A surprise reconciliation deal between rivals Fatah and Hamas movements delayed the polls till 22 October last year.

Years of rivalry has left Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority run the West Bank, while Hamas control Gaza Strip which has been besieged by Israel since 2006.

The deal between both Palestinian rival factions called for legislative and presidential elections by May 2012.

However, successive disagreements between Fatah and Hamas over the make-up of the interim government stalled the deal’s implementation.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas issued a decree in August 2011 “postponing the local elections indefinitely to pave the way for internal Palestinian reconciliation.”

Tuesday’s decision comes amid signs of renewed disagreement between Fatah and Hamas.

After months of negotiations, Hamas agreed in May to allow the Central Elections Commission to restart work in the Gaza Strip, tasked with registering thousands of new voters in preparation for the elections to be held under the reconciliation deal.

However, the Islamic movement “temporarily suspended” the commission’s work earlier this month after accusing Palestinian Authority of arresting Hamas members in the West Bank and citing various technical “obstacles.”

The last time the Palestinians went to the polls was for parliamentary elections in 2006, which Hamas won by a landslide.

Intermittent factional differences have delayed fresh parliamentary and presidential elections, which are due since January 2010.

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