Hamas-Fatah disputes lead to postponement of Palestinian local polls
RAMALLAH (Palestinian Territories) - Palestinian municipal polls scheduled for October 8 were postponed on Wednesday after a court delayed a ruling on whether to hold the first vote since 2006 to include both Fatah and Hamas.
The Palestinian high court in the Fatah-led West Bank put off its ruling until October 3, only five days before the scheduled date for the elections.
Two weeks of campaigning are usually allotted for Palestinian elections and had been set to begin on Friday.
In response, the electoral commission confirmed that the October 8 date "is no longer applicable." It set no new date.
On September 8, the court suspended the elections following disputes between the rival Fatah and Hamas movements over candidate lists.
It had left open the possibility that they could be re-scheduled for the same date if the dispute was resolved, but Wednesday's announcement by the electoral commission was widely anticipated.
Islamist movement Hamas, which runs the Gaza Strip, boycotted the last Palestinian municipal elections in 2012, but it was due to participate this year.
Fatah and Hamas have not contested an election since 2006 parliamentary polls, which Hamas won -- sparking a conflict that led to near civil war in Gaza the following year.
This year's vote was planned with 81-year-old president Mahmud Abbas under heavy political pressure as opinion polls have suggested most Palestinians would like him to step down.
There has been no Palestinian presidential election since 2005 and Abbas has remained in office despite the expiry of his term.
Some analysts saw Abbas's decision to call the elections as a failed gambit since he may have been hoping Hamas would repeat its 2012 boycott.
Abbas is currently in New York ahead of his UN General Assembly address on Thursday.
Despite repeated reconciliation attempts, Hamas and Fatah have failed to bridge their differences and form a unified administration for the Palestinian territories.
The October vote was to choose municipal councils in some 416 cities and towns in Gaza and the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
It is seen by some analysts as a test of whether Hamas and Fatah can take a significant step towards reconciliation.