The Freeland File
Aerospace & Defense
Global Market Data
Lucy P. Marcus
The Great Debate
Macro & Markets
Lipper Awards 2012
Personal Finance Video
Photos of the week
Download our Wider Image iPad app
Images of September
As other polls show tight race, Gallup stands apart
19 Oct 2012
Lebanese PM suspects assassination linked to bomb plot
Britney's dad feared singer would die during 2007 meltdown
19 Oct 2012
Canada blocks $5.2 billion Petronas bid for Progress Energy
Beirut bomb kills anti-Syrian intelligence official
19 Oct 2012
Obama gets second chance in debate rematch with Romney
Obama talks Libya and Biden’s swimsuit on ”Daily Show”
”I take responsibility” for Benghazi, Clinton tells CNN
West Bank vote held to help plug Palestinian democracy gap
Divided Palestinians hold municipal elections without Hamas
Thu, Oct 18 2012
Israel strikes Gaza targets after rocket salvo
Mon, Oct 8 2012
Venezuela presidential vote looks set for close finish
Sun, Oct 7 2012
Israeli air strike wounds two militants, eight bystanders in Gaza Strip
Sun, Oct 7 2012
Israeli air force shoots down drone aircraft
Sat, Oct 6 2012
Analysis & Opinion
The neocons’ war against Obama
Electoral legal minefields, baseball contracts, and airline woes
Middle East Turmoil »
1 of 8. A Palestinian woman shows her ink-stained finger after casting her vote at a polling station in the West Bank city of Ramallah October 20, 2012.
Credit: Reuters/Mohamad Torokman
By Noah Browning
RAMALLAH, West Bank |
Sat Oct 20, 2012 9:51am EDT
RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) - Palestinians voted in local elections in the Israel-occupied West Bank on Saturday, their first vote for six years and one with little choice, out of step with democratic revolutions elsewhere in the Arab world.
The results were expected to largely reaffirm the Western-backed, mainly secular Fatah party, which runs a de facto government in the slivers of land not policed by Israel, in the face of a boycott by its Islamist arch-rival, Hamas.
While uprisings brought Arab governments from Morocco to Egypt to accommodate long suppressed Islamist parties, single party rule in the West Bank persists along with Fatah's feud with the more militant and anti-Israel Hamas, which has ruled the coastal Gaza Strip since the two groups clashed in 2007.
"We do not recognize the legitimacy of these elections and we call for them to be stopped in order to protect the Palestinian people and protect their unity," Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said.
Haniyeh, who took office when Hamas won a surprise majority in a parliamentary vote in 2006 - an outcome nullified by the civil war that followed a year later, decried the latest poll as "unilateral elections removed from a national consensus."
Fatah finally found time ripe for the repeatedly-delayed local elections. The party edged out Hamas in university ballots throughout the West Bank earlier this year and opinion polls show flagging support for the Islamist group since it began the uphill task of governing impoverished and crowded Gaza.
With Gaza not participating in Saturday's vote and a majority of West Bank residents living in areas where local councils are running uncontested, the election was less meaningful than in previous years.
Less than half of citizens surveyed by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research said they would vote, and an even smaller number thought the ballot would be fair.
But fissures within Fatah lent some suspense to the polls. Some local leaders struck out on their own after being spurned from official lists in a sign of personal disputes. They may garner a showing giving them an influential say in local councils.
The mood at efficient and well-policed voting stations in schools and public buildings throughout the West Bank was subdued. Palestinians expressed melancholy at their divisions and the seeming permanence of Israel's 45-year-old occupation.
Cars decked with Fatah and Palestinian flags blaring nationalist anthems made noisy rounds among Bethlehem's polling centers, and candidates hoping to win last-minute support greeted and chatted with voters.
"I heard that the Fatah bloc was made up of good people, so I voted for them," said Amani, 29, who declined to give her last name, drying with tissue her index finger dipped in the indelible purple ink of the voting stations.
"I think in the end all parties have their own political and financial interest in mind. But it is my duty to vote, and so I can say that I've done my part," she said.
EARLY TO DEMOCRACY
Palestinian Authority President and Fatah chief Mahmoud Abbas emphasized a legacy of democracy as he voted in downtown Ramallah, his capital while Israel denies Palestinian government a seat in the contested holy city of Jerusalem.
"We hope we will be regarded by our brothers in Gaza and everywhere in the Arab world as the ones who first embarked upon democracy, and we continue on this path and we hope everyone will follow us," he told journalists.
Palestinians first held parliamentary elections in 1995, rare among Arab countries at the time and a positive step after the interim Oslo peace accords with Israel the previous year, which have long lapsed and become an albatross for the same, sclerotic Palestinian leadership of the present day.
The Authority faces deepening challenges to its legitimacy. An addiction to foreign economic aid has opened up a financial crisis that exploded into street protests in cities up and down the West Bank last month.
Years of imprisonment and marginalization of Hamas activists in the West Bank have deepened Fatah's near monopoly on power in self-ruled West Bank enclaves.
An aggressive campaign to root out corrupt and insubordinate security officers within Fatah's own cadres this year has further narrowed the ruling clique.
But as economic problems worsen amid the standstill of Palestinians' broader political landscape, many hail the vote as an opportunity to renew institutions and focus on development at the grassroots level.
"Of course, there are positive signs in these elections," the Palestinian al-Quds newspaper wrote in an editorial. "The local authorities have an important role in public services and providing an administration for citizens."
(Reporting By Ali Sawafta in Ramallah and Jihan Abdalla in Bethlehem; Writing by Noah Browning; Editing by Mark Heinrich)
Middle East Turmoil
We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Be the first to comment on reuters.com.
Add yours using the box above.
Back to top
New York Legal
Support & Contact
Connect with Reuters
Our Flagship financial information platform incorporating Reuters Insider
An ultra-low latency infrastructure for electronic trading and data distribution
A connected approach to governance, risk and compliance
Our next generation legal research platform
Our global tax workstation
About Thomson Reuters
Thomson Reuters is the world's largest international multimedia news agency, providing investing news, world news, business news, technology news, headline news, small business news, news alerts, personal finance, stock market, and mutual funds information available on Reuters.com, video, mobile, and interactive television platforms. Thomson Reuters journalists are subject to an Editorial Handbook which requires fair presentation and disclosure of relevant interests.
NYSE and AMEX quotes delayed by at least 20 minutes. Nasdaq delayed by at least 15 minutes. For a complete list of exchanges and delays, please click here.