Widespread Boycott Drags Down Turnout in Palestinian Elections

Published May 14th, 2017 - 07:00 GMT
A Palestinian woman casts her ballot during the municipal elections in the West Bank city of Ramallah on May 13, 2017. (AFP/Abbas Momani)
A Palestinian woman casts her ballot during the municipal elections in the West Bank city of Ramallah on May 13, 2017. (AFP/Abbas Momani)

Turnout in the Palestinian local elections was about 50 percent, the Central Elections Commission (CEC) said after polls closed on Saturday.

The elections were only held in the West Bank because Hamas, which has controlled the Gaza Strip since 2007, decided to boycott the vote, along with other smaller political factions. 

The boycott has left the biggest grouping, Fatah, to run almost uncontested in many areas.

One-hundred and forty-five West Bank localities were up for grabs. More than 200 others either failed to submit an electoral list or submitted only one, meaning automatic appointment. More than 4,400 candidates are competing for 1,561 council seats. 

CEC chairman Hanna Nasser said at a press conference in Ramallah that turnout in the cities was much lower than in the villages.

In Nablus, the biggest West Bank city, turnout was only 20 percent; in Al Bireh, Ramallah's twin city, 28 percent; and Hebron, the second-largest West Bank city, 30 percent.

The overall turnout figures were similar to the previous local elections in 2012, also boycotted by the Islamist Hamas movement.

Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah cast his vote at a polling station in his hometown of Anabta in the northern West Bank.

Speaking to reporters, Hamdallah said the elections “send a message to the world that our people deserve a state as any other nation in the world.”

Political analyst Jihad Harb attributed the low voter enthusiasm to three factors: the Hamas boycott; an ongoing hunger strike by the Palestinian prisoners in Israel; and the failure of the biggest political group, Fatah, to mobilize its followers.

The impact of the Hamas boycott was visible in Hebron and Al Bireh in the West Bank, said Harb, "because these two cities are known Hamas strongholds."

In some areas, voters were presented with a joint list of independent candidates with leanings to both Fatah and Hamas, but these also garnered little support.

Vote-counting started immediately after polls closed. Voters in some areas expecting a win for Fatah had already begun celebrations.

Official results are expected to be announced on Sunday.

By Maher Abukhater

© 2022 dpa GmbH

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