Saturday’s municipality elections were restricted to certain cities and villages of the West Bank, and will not have any effect in the Gaza Strip since they had been banned by the Islamic government of Hamas.
The first elections since 2006 may have taken place, but the Palestinians still remain divided. The reconciliation agreement failed to be signed although the two parties, Fatah and Hamas, have previously gone through the process of signing several agreements; with the latest being in Doha early 2011.
Dr. Mahmoud Al Zahar, a senior leader in the Hamas movement said: “These elections are illegal and we won’t be involved in any elections without having any observers from our side in the Central Elections Committee.”
Hamas didn’t only ban the elections in the Gaza Strip but also refused to nominate any candidates to run as well as asking their supporters in the West Bank not to vote in the elections.
“As long as we don’t reach a total reconciliation, the result of these elections or any other election will remain false and meaningless to us,” Dr. Al Zahar added.
The last municipality elections in Gaza Strip took place in 2005 when both Hamas and Fatah candidates took most of the votes; though Hamas won the elections in Gaza Strip.
The people in Gaza are sick and tired of the reconciliation file, reaching the conclusion that both parties have reached a point where they just can’t work together.
“These municipality elections aren’t as important and crucial as the parliamentary and presidential elections,” said Talal Okal, a political analyst. “As long as Hamas is in power, no elections will be taking place anytime soon for they seem to be happy with the situation here; unless there are any strategic political changes in the future.”
Hamas came to power by winning the parliamentary elections in 2006 while Fatah candidate Mahmoud Abbas had won the presidency the year before. Since then, the Palestinian political system faced a double head problem in taking decisions which led to Hamas taking over the Gaza Strip in 2007, splitting the Palestinians both politically and geographically.
According to the Arwad Center for political and strategic studies in the West Bank, nearly 55% of the people in the West Bank aren’t satisfied with the attitude of the municipality, while 85% are with the elections.
Dr. Faisal Abu Shahla, a parliament member from the Fatah party said: “Elections are a way for people to elect their representatives and the people who ought to serve them. We had come to agreement with Hamas on several occasions, signing many agreements but they’ve got a habit of bringing everything to an end at the last minute.”
“In the last agreement with Hamas, we agreed that there will be observers from all parties involved in the Central Election Committee and the elections procedures in general meaning they don’t have the right whatsoever to stand in the way of democracy by refusing to hold the elections in order for them to remain in power.”
The Central Elections Committee banned the registration of those who have the right to vote in the Gaza Strip last February claiming that the reconciliation agreement isn’t yet complete and that there are Hamas prisoners in Palestinian authority jails in the West Bank.
Rana E. Manna is Your Middle East’s Editor in Gaza.