Palestinian film festival opens in Gaza

Palestinian film festival opens in Gaza

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' ruling Fatah party fared poorly in the West Bank municipal elections on Saturday.

Escalating tensions between Hamas and the more moderate Fatah led to Hamas's seizure of Gaza in 2007, while Abbas's party was left with control of the West Bank.

The 2006 elections saw a relatively high turnout rate, which sat at 77.6 percent and gave Hamas 74 out of 132 seats in the Palestinian parliament.

In Hebron, the West Bank's largest city, posters of candidates filled the city's main buildings.

CEC chairman Hanna Nasser said at a press conference in Ramallah that turnout in the cities was much lower than in the villages.

Only 145 West Bank localities were up for vote, after the more than 200 others either failed to submit an electoral list or submitted only one, meaning automatic appointment, according to the Palestinian Central Election Commission.

In some areas, voters were presented with a joint list of independent candidates with leanings to both Fatah and Hamas, but these also garnered little support.

Official results are expected to be announced on Sunday.

Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah cast his vote at a polling station in his hometown of Anabta in the northern West Bank. Their failure to reconcile is seen as a major obstacle to any settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

More than 4,400 candidates are competing for 1,561 council seats. But with the rival movements disqualifying each other's candidates, Fatah chose to go forward with the elections in the West Bank alone in a bid to renew its legitimacy.

Gaza is ruled by the Islamist Hamas movement and is under a partial Israeli-Egyptian blockade. East Jerusalem's 300,000 residents didn't take part in the elections.

Abbas' presidential term officially ended in 2009, but elections have not been held in Palestine since 2006, when Hamas stood for parliamentary elections and won. "Holding them in the West Bank alone, without Gaza, will cement division", said Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum.

Hamas has rejected the calls for elections saying they will only continue to pull political sensitivities in Palestinian socio-political hemisphere if elections are held before political reconciliation between the two parties.

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