Nickolay Mladenov
Nickolay MladenovReuters

The United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East, Nickolay Mladenov, on Tuesday welcomed the Palestinian Authority’s decision to postpone municipal elections.

“I welcome today’s decision to postpone local elections. It is in the national interest of the Palestinian people that when such elections take place, they be organized both in the West Bank and Gaza,” he said in a statement.

“I urge all Palestinian bodies to work together in good faith to overcome internal divisions and uphold democracy,” added Mladenov.

“Local elections, conducted in line with established international standards, must contribute to advancing Palestinian reconciliation based on PLO principles as well as to ending the occupation and establishing a democratic, unified Palestinian state as part of a negotiated two-state solution,” he concluded.

Earlier on Tuesday, reported Haaretz, the PA government in Ramallah decided to postpone the vote by four months, until the beginning of 2017.

Late last month, the PA’s high court ordered the suspension of local elections which had originally been scheduled for October 8.

On Monday, however, it made another ruling, this time deciding that the local elections would take place, but only in PA-assigned areas of Judea and Samaria and not in Gaza, citing ongoing tensions between rivals Fatah and Hamas.

In wake of the ruling, the PA’s Central Election Committee recommended postponing the elections by six months so a compromise could be found to permit the local elections to go ahead in Gaza as well, according to Haaretz.

The committee noted that they respect the top court's ruling, but said that "de facto, in the current environment, it is impossible to hold a vote and to remove Gaza from the equation."

Hamas and Fatah have exchanged accusations, each blaming the other for the suspension of the elections which, according to polls, will be won by Hamas.

Hamas has accused the PA of suspending the elections deliberately, for fear of losing the elections in Judea and Samaria. The PA, for its part, has claimed Hamas had struck off Fatah lists for fear of losing in Gaza.

The back and forth is part of the ongoing feud between Hamas and rival Fatah, which have been at odds since 2007 when Hamas took over Gaza from Fatah in a bloody coup.

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