The Palestinian resistance movement, Hamas, has dismissed a ruling by a West Bank court postponing next month’s municipal elections, amid divisions between the Gaza-based group and rival Fatah Party in Ramallah.
“We reject the decision to cancel the election and call on everyone to reject it,” Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said on Thursday.
The remarks came hours after the High Court in the West Bank city of Ramallah decided to delay the October 8 vote until at least December 21, citing a dispute over party lists in Gaza and the inability to hold the vote in East Jerusalem al-Quds.
“Elections can’t take place in one place and not the other,” the presiding judge of the court said in his ruling, noting that there are also “problems with the formation of courts in Gaza ...Therefore, the court decides to stop the election.”
The court ruling came after Hamas-controlled courts in Gaza disqualified Fatah-backed slates of candidates recently.
Abu Zuhri denounced the Ramallah court decision as “politically-motivated,” saying it was issued “to rescue Fatah after its lists of candidates collapsed in a number of areas.”
The municipal polls would have been the first involving Fatah and Hamas since 2006, when the latter scored a landslide victory in legislative polls in Gaza, an outcome that led to a rupture in Palestinian politics.
In the October elections, Palestinians were to choose mayors and local councils in 425 communities in the West Bank and Gaza.
The local elections are seen as a proxy vote on the popularity of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah Party.
Some opinion polls show that if parliamentary elections were held tomorrow, Hamas would win in both Gaza and the West Bank.
Hamas boycotted the last Palestinian municipal elections, which were held in 2012 with the participation of only a fraction of the West Bank’s municipalities.
Over the past few years, Hamas has ruled the impoverished and Israeli-blockaded Gaza Strip, while Fatah has set up headquarters in the occupied Palestinian territories in the West Bank.
Hamas and Fatah agreed to set aside their differences and formed a unity government in April 2014.
Despite having signed the unity deal, the two sides have failed to work efficiently toward the goal of the agreement, namely the formation of a technocratic government.