All set for first vote in Palestine since 2006



Ramallah: After a hiatus of seven years, Palestinians would look forward to cast their votes in the West Bank local elections on Saturday.

It was in January 2006 when the Palestinians had last voted. The Islamist Hamas movement had gained majority and has been ruling the Gaza strip ever since.

In the first stage, 91 of the territories353 municipalities will go to vote.

For the rest of the 181 localities the Central Elections Commission (CEC) has yet to decide a date and all candidates here were appointed without any opposition.

Despite of their victory in 2006, the Islamist Hamas movement has refrained from participating in tomorrow’s elections.

Nearly 10,000 members of the security forces, who will be on duty on Election Day, cast their ballots yesterday.

Ahead of the vote, the CEC urged the half a million registered voters "to do their civic duty" and cast their ballots.

Over the past two years, the Palestinian Authority of president Mahmud Abbas has repeatedly called local elections then postponed them as a result of problems coordinating the vote between his Fatah faction and its Hamas rivals.

A reconciliation deal aimed at ending years of bitter opposition between the two factions has fizzled out over the past year. In May, Abbas appointed a new government under Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, tasked with holding municipal elections in the West Bank alone.

The move angered Hamas, which accused Abbas of abandoning reconciliation.