Fatah leads in municipal elections

Elections not held in Gaza due to ongoing feud between Fatah and Hamas.

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Ramallah
Ramallah
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Palestinian Authority (PA) chairman Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah party was ahead on Sunday in most of the main cities in the PA-assigned areas of Judea and Samaria, after municipal elections that highlighted persistent divisions with its rival Hamas.

The voting took place on Saturday, but only in areas of Judea and Samaria controlled by Fatah, and not in Gaza, which is run by Hamas.

Attempts to hold the first joint elections in both regions failed after the two movements were unable to reach an agreement.

Hamas and Fatah have been feuding since 2007 when Hamas took over Gaza from Fatah in a bloody coup.

A unity government between Hamas and Fatah collapsed last June when Abbas decided to dissolve it amid a deepening rift between the sides.

Official figures showed turnout the elections at 53.4 percent, or nearly the same as local elections in in 2012, electoral commission chief Hanna Nasser told journalists in Ramallah.

However, turnout was far lower in large cities than in surrounding communities, with the lowest in Shechem (Nablus), where it was less than 21 percent.

Ramallah saw turnout of less than 40percent.

Fatah's list was notably ahead in the cities of Jenin, Jericho and Hevron.

While Hamas did not field candidates under its party name, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine called for a boycott, saying it would refuse to participate in an election while hundreds of terrorists serving time in Israeli jails were on hunger strike.

The terrorists began the hunger strike on April 17 in an attempt to pressure Israel to improve the conditions of their imprisonment.

The hunger strike is being led by Marwan Barghouti, the archterrorist leader of Fatah who is serving five life sentences in Israel and who has since been exposed secretly eating in his cell despite being on hunger strike.

PA-assigned areas of Judea and Samaria and Gaza have not participated in an election together since 2006, when Hamas swept the polls, sparking the conflict that eventually led to Hamas taking over Gaza.

Abbas's term as PA chairman was meant to end in 2009, but he has remained in office since that time with no elections organized.

AFP contributed to this report.