Palestinian court delays ruling on whether to hold local polls

Ramallah (Palestinian Territories) (AFP) –


A Palestinian court on Wednesday delayed a ruling on whether to hold municipal elections, making it unlikely the first vote since 2006 to include both Fatah and Hamas will be held on time.

The high court postponed its ruling until October 3, only five days before the scheduled October 8 date for the elections.

Two weeks of campaigning are usually alloted for Palestinian elections and had been set to begin on Friday.

"The decision is postponed until the 3rd of October," said Hisham al-Hatoo, head of the Palestinian high court in the Fatah-led West Bank.

On September 8, the court suspended the elections following disputes between the rival Fatah and Hamas movements over candidate lists.

Islamist movement Hamas, which runs the Gaza Strip, boycotted the last Palestinian municipal elections in 2012, but it was due to participate this year.

Fatah and Hamas have not contested an election since 2006 parliamentary polls, which Hamas won -- sparking a conflict that led to near civil war in Gaza the following year.

This year's vote was planned with 81-year-old president Mahmud Abbas under heavy political pressure as opinion polls have suggested most Palestinians would like him to step down.

There has been no Palestinian presidential election since 2005 and Abbas has remained in office despite the expiry of his term.

Some analysts saw Abbas's decision to call the elections as a failed gambit since he may have been hoping Hamas would repeat its 2012 boycott.

Abbas is currently in New York ahead of his UN General Assembly address on Thursday.

Despite repeated reconciliation attempts, Hamas and Fatah have failed to bridge their differences and form a unified administration for the Palestinian territories.

The October vote was to choose municipal councils in some 416 cities and towns in Gaza and the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

It is seen by some analysts as a test of whether Hamas and Fatah can take a significant step towards reconciliation.