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Palestinian parties urged to remove obstacles to local elections in Gaza and West Bank

GAZA CITY: Hamas rejected plans to hold municipal elections in the Gaza Strip – as is the case in the West Bank – where the Palestinian Authority was preparing for the second phase of elections in March.

More than 100 Palestinian NGOs published a petition calling on Hamas and Fatah to remove any administrative, technical or legal obstacles and to guarantee the holding of local elections in Gaza and the West Bank.

The director of the NGO Network in Gaza, Amjad Al-Shawa, said that the consensus on the holding of local elections will give hope to the Palestinian people in the possibility of achieving internal reconciliation.

Hamas and Fatah have failed to achieve internal Palestinian reconciliation after several attempts.

NGOs said holding local elections would push the process towards completing the remainder of the legislative and presidential elections.

Hamas has called on the Palestinian Authority three times to participate and authorize the second phase of local elections in the Gaza Strip.

In a letter sent to the Palestinian Central Election Commission, Hamas called for general elections to be held simultaneously or consecutively, in which local elections are part and not substitute for them.

Hamas has asked for a written pledge from President Mahmoud Abbas to ensure that the elections will not be called off at the last minute, and also wants his amendments to the law on municipal elections to be overturned.

Hamas spokesman Hazim Qasem said the movement did not want by-elections.

He said the movement’s demands match national aspirations and should be discussed as part of a “serious national dialogue to discuss elections at all levels, setting precise timetables, with written guarantees that” they will be respected ”.

Hamas wants to hold full Palestinian elections for the Legislative Council, the Presidency, and the National Council, as nationally agreed – either simultaneously or consecutively.

Abbas has indefinitely postponed the parliamentary elections scheduled for last May, citing Israel’s refusal to hold them in Jerusalem.

The Central Election Commission announced that it had received an official letter from Hamas containing its position on the second phase of local elections scheduled for March 26.

This stage of the elections will not take place in Gaza, according to the letter from Hamas, confirmed the director of the regional office of the electoral commission in Gaza, Jamil Al-Khalidi.

He said the letter included “political demands,” which Hamas defined as the basis for agreeing to participate and hold elections in Gaza.

Election law-related demands, such as the annulment of the formation of the electoral tribunal and the return of jurisdiction to adjudicate appeals to the lower courts of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Hanna Nasser, the chairman of the commission, responded to Hamas with a written letter.

He stressed that Hamas’s demands “are political and require addressing the political level about them.”

The president said that the commission had an executive mission and that it was not within its competence to pronounce on these political questions.

The committee believes that it is currently impossible to hold local elections in Gaza due to the limited time before the voter registration process for the local elections, which is expected to start in a few days.

The first phase of local elections took place partially in early December in 154 local councils of villages and towns in the West Bank, but not in the Gaza Strip.

Hamas has controlled the situation in the coastal strip since the split in mid-2007.

The Palestinian law on local elections stipulates that “elections shall be held every four years by decision of the council of ministers, provided that the term of office of the council is four years and that it continues to deliberate until the holding of elections. elections. . “

The last local elections were held in 2017 in the West Bank, when Hamas also refused to hold them in Gaza.

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