The government of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has decided to postpone municipal elections by three months until October, reasoning they have to make sure elections can be held in both the West Bank and Gaza.
Municipal elections were initially scheduled for July 9. The new date is October 22, a month after the Palestinian Authority promised to request international recognition of the State of Palestine along the 1967 border and admission as a full member of the United Nations.
Palestinian Authority elections in 2006 (Photo: Reuters)
When the initial date was set, the Palestinians were split into two camps, with Hamas militants running Gaza and Abbas in charge in the West Bank. Since then, the two sides have pledged to reconcile, but are still working on a unity government.
Abbas' West Bank government said Tuesday it decided to put off the elections "to provide the proper atmosphere to hold the elections in the entire Palestinian territories."
The original election date was decided upon unilaterally by the government in Ramallah, fearing the pro-democratic riots spreading in the Arab world would reach the West Bank. Following the PA's announcement Hamas declared they plan to boycott the elections, claiming they lack validity.
Gaza officials described the pre-election reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah "a farce," adding they "will not be part of its implications."
Ghassan Khatib, spokesman for the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority, announced over three months ago that if Hamas refuses to hold elections in the Gaza Strip, they will only be held in the West Bank.
The last PA municipal elections were held in 2005, with Hamas coming up on top. A year later the group won the January 2006 parliamentary elections.
Elior Levy contributed to the report
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