Local elections polls open in the West Bank

Official figures put turnout at 53.4 percent, or almost the same as local elections in the West Bank in 2012, according to electoral commission chief Hanna Nasser.

A Palestinian helps an elderly man at a polling station in the West Bank city of Nablus, Saturday, May 13, 2017.Palestinians choose mayors and local councils in communities across the West Bank, a rare chance to cast ballots after more than a decade without presidential or legislative elections.

Hanna Nasser, head of elections commission, called on all citizens who have the right to vote to cast their votes in their local elections, which opened at 7:00 A.M. until 7:00 P.M.

Attempts to hold the first joint elections in the West Bank and Gaza since 2006 failed after the two movements were not able to reach an agreement.

Escalating tensions between Hamas and the more moderate Fatah led to Hamas's seizure of Gaza in 2007, while Abbas's party was left with control of the West Bank.

Hamas boycotted the previous municipal elections, held in 2012.

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In Hebron, the West Bank's largest city, posters of candidates filled the city's main buildings.

Ramallah, the Palestinian political capital, saw turnout of less than 40 per cent. More than half of the 536 lists participating in the elections were not registered as being affiliated with any party.

They also come more than 10 years after Hamas won the majority of seats in the parliament, which left the worldwide community to deal with the implications of a Palestinian nationalist and Islamist movement finding its feet within the mainstream Palestinian political machine. Preliminary results will be announced on Sunday. Hamas did not present any candidate lists of its own, saying the vote would only add to divisions. But with the rival movements disqualifying each other's candidates, Fatah chose to go forward with the elections in the West Bank alone in a bid to renew its legitimacy.

"The election decision serves only Fatah, and it will never serve the Palestinian democracy", says Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum.

Months of political and legal wrangling preceded Saturday's elections.

There haven't been presidential and parliamentary elections since 2005 and Abbas' term has officially long expired.

  • Sonia Alvarado