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Palestine's Democratic Deficit

Why Fatah Won't Hold Elections

Palestinians burn a portrait of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, April 2016. Mohammed Salem / Reuters

Last Tuesday, the Palestinian Authority postponed local municipal elections to early 2017 after an escalating series of reprisals between Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party in the West Bank and his Islamist Hamas rivals in Gaza ended in a stalemate. The local elections would have been the first since 2012 (when Fatah ran unopposed in the West Bank) and the first democratic contest between Fatah and Hamas since the latter’s victory in the 2006 legislative elections. Instead, the elections, originally slated for October 8, were delayed, then proposed in the West Bank only, and then finally postponed for four months. Such is the state of the Fatah-Hamas rivalry that both parties view even local city council elections as too risky to countenance.

The latest breakdown between Fatah and Hamas should remove any doubt about the potential for reconciliation between the two largest Palestinian political parties. Both sides viewed the municipal elections as a zero-sum contest.

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