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Palestinian elections: Despite Hamas boycott, Fatah fares poorly

The results announced today add to mounting concerns that Fatah – and the broader Palestinian leadership – is losing its legitimacy.

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Municipal services

The fact that the municipal elections happened at all was deemed a success, but the exercise was not as robust as it could have been. Voting was slated to take place in only 93 of 354 localities, according to the Palestinian Central Elections Commission; 82 localities were unprepared and were expected to vote in a second round Nov. 24, while 179 localities fielded only one choice for voters and thus a vote was unnecessary.

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Voter turnout was reported at 54.8 percent – down from the 77.7 percent turnout seen in 2006 parliamentary elections, but roughly on par with voter turnout in recent US presidential elections. While the Hamas boycott likely contributed to the decrease, some Hamas supporters may have put aside their politics to cast their vote for improving municipal services like roads, garbage collection, and sewage systems.

“I know for sure that some [Hamas members] did vote because this is the municipal election and this is for the services of the city,” said graphic designer Majd Hadid, standing outside a polling station in central Ramallah yesterday.

Mr. Hadid and his architect cousin, Mohannad Hadid, who had come all the way from Abu Dhabi to cast his vote, said they voted for Fatah members – but not those chosen by Fatah chairman and Abbas.

“Getting someone from the president’s office is not how we want to run our city,” said Majd Hadid. “It might work for the president’s office, but it doesn’t work for the streets.”

Abdul-Karim, the analyst, says it was “urgently necessary” to elect new councils who had popular support to improve things like roads that affect the daily lives of citizens. He expects that such areas can now see “some good improvement.”

'Landmark end of Fatah'

Despite the Hamas boycott, Fatah by no means ran unopposed in this election, with renegade Fatah members, powerful clans, new women’s groups, and other blocs challenging the official Fatah party lists.

But some voters were still nonplussed about their choices in the municipal elections, which for districts such as Hebron marked the first such elections in more than three decades.

“I wish there was a third party. We have a major problem here in Palestine. It’s either/or – Fatah or Hamas,” says Bayan Shbib, an actress in the relatively upscale neighborhood of El-Bireh near Ramallah. “To me they have both proven a failure in responding to the people’s needs and aspirations…. They are not doing any good for the Palestinians.”

But many Palestinians say it’s not all the fault of their politicians; Israel, they point out, still controls many aspects of life in the territory despite granting greater autonomy to the PA in recent years.

“People understand they are living in a culture of prison; what is left to them is to improve life within the walls of the prison,” says PASSIA head Mr. Abdul-Hadi. The local elections, he says, "expose the balance of power within the prison.”

* The original headline for this article mistakenly indicated which party fared poorly in the elections.


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