AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE
Monday 22 October 2012
Last Update 21 October 2012 7:16 pm
RAMALLAH: Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas’s Fatah party was yesterday claiming victory ahead of the results of local elections in the West Bank, in the first such vote since 2006.
Although preliminary results were only due out at 1600 GMT, Fatah officials were openly jubilant after the long-delayed ballot, which was boycotted by the rival Hamas movement, which rules Gaza.
“Fatah won a victory in this election,” party spokesman Ahmad Assaf said. “Despite Hamas’s efforts, participation was good, which proves that people reject Hamas policies,” he said, without elaborating.
The Central Elections Commission put turnout at 54.8 percent.
Several hours after the polls closed, supporters in the southern city of Hebron took the streets to celebrate their victory.
The last time the Palestinians voted was in the general elections of January 2006, which Hamas won by a landslide; the Islamist movement also chalked up major wins a year earlier during the last local elections.
This time, however, Hamas refused to take part following the collapse of unity talks with Fatah, leaving the Abbas’s party to face off with independents and leftist factions like the PFLP and DFLP.
Fatah’s success was due in part to its lists being carefully chosen, Assaf said.
“In some cases, they were 100 percent Fatah and in other cases we made a joint list with independents and other factions,” he said.
“Even though Hamas boycotted the elections, we feel that this election was better than in 2005 because the party was focusing on the services that people need.
“People went to the polling stations at their own, they weren’t forced which means they were looking for change and to improve their situation,” he said.
Umar Rahal, director of the Shams Democracy Institute said turnout was “acceptable.” “People were frustrated with the political deadlock so in these circumstances, 54.8 percent was acceptable,” he said.
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