On 8 September the Palestinian high court in Ramallah ruled that the municipal elections scheduled for October 8 cannot be held after a dispute over party lists and the inability to hold the vote in East Jerusalem.
The ruling follows court submissions by Hamas in Gaza against party lists drawn up by Fatah. It claimed that Hamas-run courts in Gaza had annulled candidate lists in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip, barring Fatah from standing for infringements including alleged “immorality”, such as reported claims of a picture of one candidate dancing in a nightclub. Moreover, the presiding judge of the Ramallah court said that “elections can’t take place in one place and not in the other”. He added in his statement: “The election can’t take place in Jerusalem and its neighbourhoods. Also, there are problems with the formation of courts in Gaza… Therefore, the court decides to stop the election.”
An additional session of the court will be held on September 21, but legal experts have already stated that it is unlikely the decision will be changed. Moreover, the Central Election Committee said it has suspended preparations for the ballot following the court ruling.
Fatah spokesperson Osama Al-Qawasmi blamed Hamas for the legal dispute: “We hold Hamas fully responsible for foiling the election, starting with the unjustified petitions it filed”. Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri blamed Fatah on the other hand: “The high court decision is politically motivated and it came in order to rescue Fatah after its lists of candidates collapsed in a number of areas.” The elections would have been the first in a decade in all Palestinian territories and they were being seen as a proxy vote on the popularity of President Mahmoud Abbas. The local elections in 2012 only took place in a fraction of the West Bank’s 350 municipalities, and Hamas refusing to recognise the outcome.
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