PA Sets Date for Local Elections, Hamas Unhappy

PA cabinet sets October 20 as date for local elections. Hamas warns the decision would “affect reconciliation negatively.”

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Elad Benari,

PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas
PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas
Israel news photo: Flash 90

The Palestinian Authority cabinet agreed on Tuesday to hold local elections on October 20 in both the PA-controlled areas of Judea and Samaria as well as in Gaza.

According to a report in the Bethlehem-based Ma’an news agency, ministers tasked the Central Election Commission with preparation for the poll. Hamas immediately warned the decision would “affect reconciliation negatively,” the report said.

A spokesman for Hamas’ Gaza government, Taher Nunu, said the PA cabinet had violated the reconciliation deal between Hamas and its longtime rival Fatah.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said Fatah is responsible for all the implications of holding elections.

Ma’an noted that last week, cabinet ministers said they decided to go ahead with the vote after Hamas suspended the work of the commission in Gaza.

Presidential, parliamentary and local government elections are all overdue since Fatah and Hamas split bitterly over Hamas' electoral success in 2006.

The Fatah-led government in Judea and Samaria has repeatedly attempted to initiate local elections, to the outcry of Hamas who insist the vote must be conducted nationally, and thus coordinated with them.

Last week, the PLO called on Hamas to reverse its decision to suspend voter registration in Gaza.

Hamas shut down voter registration amid a row over a crackdown by Fatah-dominated security forces in Palestinian Authority enclaves in Judea and Samaria.

PLO secretary-general Yasser Abed Rabbo said, "As Hamas continues to make up pretexts and obstacles to impede reconciliation, this again demonstrates the movement does not wish to end the state of disagreement.”

Voter registration was slated as the first step to implementing the long-stalled reconciliation deal between the factions signed in May 2011. The deal has repeatedly faltered as the parties spar over its implementation.

In February, PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal signed a new deal which called for the creation of an interim cabinet of independent technocrats selected by the two factions, which would prepare for elections by May 2012.

However, in June, a month after elections were to be held, the two parties had yet to agree on the names of cabinet ministers in the joint administration.

Abbas and Mashaal were expected to meet in Cairo on June 20 to select cabinet ministers for the transitional administration, but Egypt delayed the meeting without setting a new date.