Palestinians postpone elections indefinitely

Palestinian democracy showed further signs of distress when the Palestinian high court on Thursday postponed municipal elections that had been set for next month, putting on hold what would have been the first real test in a decade of political support for arch-rivals Hamas and Fatah.

The Palestinian high court decided to postpone elections in the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Gaza Strip until at least December 21, when it is to hear two appeals.

The October 8 vote would have been the first contest at the ballot box between Fatah and archrival Hamas, an Islamic terror group, since their territorial split in 2007. At the time, Hamas violently seized the Gaza Strip, leaving the Western-backed Mahmoud Abbas with autonomous enclaves in Judea and Samaria.

Since then, repeated reconciliation attempts failed while both sides deepened control over their respective territories. Hamas boycotted the last municipal elections in 2012, which were only held in the PA, but apparently took Abbas by surprise when it agreed to participate in this year’s vote.

In all, Palestinians were to choose 425 mayors and local councils, including 25 in Gaza.

Hamas reacted to the court decision with rage, charging that the court’s decision was influenced by Abbas. The terror group called to hold the elections on their set date, rejected the court’s ruling and saying that the move was a blow to “Palestinian democracy.”

Signs of trouble began emerging last week, when Hamas-controlled courts in Gaza disqualified four Fatah-backed slates of candidates. Five more lists were disqualified this week, meaning Fatah would have been unable to compete in nine of the 25 races.

Fatah protested against the exclusion of its lists, arguing that the judiciary system in Gaza is illegal and the challenges against the lists were meant to sabotage the elections.

Continuing the pre-elections struggle, Hamas on Tuesday filed a complaint with the Central Elections Committee with information on alleged violations by the PA targeting Hamas candidates.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri claimed the documented violations included intimidation, summons or detentions, and even physical targeting of candidates and their properties with live shots or explosives.

He slammed what he said was a joint PA-Israeli campaign directed against Hamas-affiliated candidates that was most evident in Hebron.

By: AP and World Israel News Staff