Ruling Palestinian party garners poor showing in West Bank elections


Voter turnout, particularly in major cities, was dismally low, with Nablus barely over 20% turnout, and others all well under 50%, though Fatah insisted it was no worse than 2012.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas's Fatah party was ahead in most of the West Bank's main cities after municipal elections that highlighted persistent divisions with its rival Hamas, results showed today.

Hanna Nasser, head of elections commission, called on all citizens who have the right to vote to cast their votes in their local elections, which opened at 7:00 A.M. until 7:00 P.M. Palestinians choose mayors and local councils in communities across the West Bank, a rare chance to cast ballots after more than a decade without presidential or legislative elections.

Gaza is ruled by the Islamist Hamas movement and is under a partial Israeli-Egyptian blockade.

More than 4,400 candidates are competing for 1,561 council seats.

"It's important that everyone has a say", but also that those elected "assume the responsibility given to them", said Rami Nazal, a United Nations employee who voted in Ramallah, the seat of the Palestinian Authority. Preliminary results will be announced on Sunday.

Official figures for Saturday's election showed turnout at 53.4 per cent - almost the same as the turnout for local elections in the West Bank in 2012, said electoral commission chief Hanna Nasser in Ramallah.

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Abbas' presidential term officially ended in 2009, but elections have not been held in Palestine since 2006, when Hamas stood for parliamentary elections and won.

One-hundred and forty-five West Bank localities were up for grabs.

Amjad Mustafa, the manager of a software shop in his thirties, said the vote was "an event not to be missed" after "a long time since we last took part in a democratic event".

In Hebron, the West Bank's largest city, posters of candidates filled the city's main buildings.

In just two cities, Jenin and Jericho, did Fatah win an outright victory without support from other participating factions. Nearly 50% of eligible voters turned out on Saturday.

Palestinians typically vote in municipal elections according to political bases.

A man looks for his name on a voter's list at a polling station in the West Bank city of Nablus, Saturday, May 13, 2017.