Of the West Bank municipalities up for grabs, Fatah took 64, with 61 percent of the total vote, against 28 seats for Hamas, which won 26 percent of the votes, and 12 municipalities for independent candidates and minor groupings.

The turnout rate was an impressive 75 percent.

The Islamist Hamas is taking Fatah on in the polls despite refusing to renounce their armed campaign against Israel.

Final results were due to be published over the next two days, after what was the third round in a four-phase election process in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Organisers reported no incidents of Israeli authorities hampering the voting in the occupied territory despite their threats to disrupt legislative elections in January if Hamas participates as planned.

The poll comes amid a fresh wave of violence in the now five-year-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with Israeli forces carrying out multiple bombing sorties in Gaza and killing three militants in the West Bank Wednesday night.

Voting took place only in the West Bank on Thursday but Israel’s recent withdrawal from Gaza had been expected to boost support for Hamas, which is credited by many for doing more than Fatah to bring about the pullout.

In previous phases of the elections, candidates have been identified only by their names but Thursday’s ballots stated the party affiliation.

Palestinian deputy prime minister Nabil Shaath, who is from Fatah, defended Hamas’s involvement in the electoral process, saying it was “a good sign that they become more involved in the political process.”

But Israel once again sounded alarm bells about the armed movement’s participation. Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres warned that the Palestinian Authority (PA) risked being “overthrown” if it tried to share power with Hamas.

Israel’s resolve against Hamas has been hardened by a recent spate of rocket attacks on its territory from the movement’s Gaza stronghold as well as the kidnap and murder of an Israeli in the West Bank.

These are the first municipal votes in the Palestinian territories for 28 years.

The first two phases of the elections took place in December and May and the fourth and last will be held on December 8 in another 107 localities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Hamas scored very well in the first two votes bettering Fatah, the ruling party in the Palestinian territories, in the dense urban areas.

According to the election commission a total of 127,000 Palestinians are eligible to vote, with 2,469 candidtates standing, including 596 women.

  • Posted on 10. January 2019
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