Unlike the first stage, the Palestinians in the West Bank are looking at the second round of local elections with great interest and importance, as members of Hamas are running in independent lists.
According to Anadolu Agency, some members and activists from Hamas formed independent lists, while others allied with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), which is the second largest PLO party.
Hamas did not openly announce that the candidates represent it, but one of its officials told Anadolu that the Movement allowed those who wanted to participate to do so through independent, familial, or competency lists.
Hamas had decided to boycott the elections, the first phase of which was held on December 11, 2021, meaning that elections have not been held in the Gaza Strip, which Hamas controls, since 2007.
At the time, Hamas demanded holding comprehensive presidential and legislative elections, and the National Assembly.
The Fatah and Hamas movements have been divided since 2007, and many mediations and agreements failed to end this division.
259 lists in 73 local authorities
On Sunday, the Palestinian Central Elections Commission stated that 259 electoral lists are competing for 73 local (municipal) bodies in the West Bank, in the second round of council elections scheduled to be held on 26 March.
The Committee confirmed 178 party lists in a statement received by Anadolu Agency.
In a statement, a copy of which was obtained by Anadolu Agency, the commission explained that there are 81 partisan lists (i.e. lists registered as representing a political party or a coalition of parties) and 178 independent lists.
It also noted that there are 23 local bodies that ran in one list (winning by acclamation).
It also revealed that the number of candidates in all accepted lists is 2,537 candidates, 678 of whom are women, representing 26.7 per cent of candidates.
The first phase of the local elections was held on 11 December, and was limited to small towns and villages. It was boycotted by Hamas and none of its members participated in them.
The importance of the second phase of the elections stems from the fact that it includes major cities: Ramallah, Al-Bireh, Hebron, Nablus, Jenin, Tulkarm, Qalqilya, Jericho, Bethlehem, Tubas and Salfit.
Fazza Sawafta, a Hamas official in the West Bank, says that his movement demands presidential, parliamentary, PNC (the PLO parliament) and municipal elections to be held all together, but the PA decided to only hold local elections.
Regarding the contradiction occurring between the Movement’s decision to boycott the elections and some of its members running in the elections, Sawafta told Anadolu “despite the Movement’s decision to reject the local elections, it kept the door open to its members who want to run in the elections to do so through independent, familial, or competency lists.”
“There is a need for change and we are part of the society and we must serve the masses. We have had a successful experience in the 2005 municipal elections,” he added.
Sawafta also noted, “Our staff operates in the majority of the areas and municipalities where the elections will be held.” He predicted that the lists with Hamas members will be greatly successful.
Fatah: Hamas’s decision is unfortunate
On his part, Fatah spokesman in the West Bank, Hussein Hamayel, stated that his Movement welcomes the participation of any party in the local elections.
He told Anadolu Agency, “No one is opposed to this participation, nor will anyone hinder it. We are only concerned with the success of the elections, and the Palestinian laws and regulations are what govern them.”
The official from Fatah, which is headed by President Mahmoud Abbas, said that “Hamas’s decision to allow its members to participate in the West Bank municipal elections, but refusal to hold the elections in the Gaza Strip is unfortunate.”
Hamayel called on Hamas to allow the Palestinian citizens in Gaza to exercise their democratic rights in the elections.
Qawas: An independent list with the support of Hamas and PFLP
In the city of Qalqilya in the north of the West Bank, Wajih Qawas heads the independent Qalqilya Al-Amal list. He is a Hamas leader and former mayor of Qalqilya in 2005 as an official representative of the movement.
Qawas told Anadolu Agency “the decision to participate was made based on popular pressure from the city’s residents.”
He added, “We called on the people of the city and the factions to support our independent list and, among the supporters, are the Hamas and the PFLP.”
Regarding the possibility of the Israeli occupation authorities harassing his list, he said, “in 2005, we ran in the elections and obtained a full municipal council and successfully provided a service to our city. The occupation government does not need any justifications to arrest or restrict the Palestinian people.”
“Our goal is to serve our Palestinian people and preserve their capabilities,” added Qawas.
Hamas achieved great success in the municipal elections held in December 2005, when it won the major municipalities in Nablus, Al-Bireh, Jenin, and Qalqilya.
In the city of Al-Bireh, which is adjacent to the city of Ramallah, Islam Al-Taweel heads the “Al-Bireh brings us together” list in these elections. He is also known for his affiliation with Hamas.
He told Anadolu, “We formed a list that includes academics, competencies, and experts to run in the municipal elections.”
“Political affiliation does not matter; each of us has their own affiliation, but what brings us together is that we are technocrats who aim to present a municipal committee able to provide the best services to our people. our political backgrounds do not matter,” said Al-Taweel.
He added, “the people want change; we are done with seeing the same names.”
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