Middle East

Palestinians vote in West Bank local elections

An election banner in Hebron, 17 October 2012

Local elections have been taking place in the West Bank, the first Palestinian polls in more than six years.

The elections have repeatedly been delayed. Hamas, the Islamist group that holds power in the Gaza Strip, is boycotting them.

More than half the West Bank constituencies are not being contested.

Candidates from President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah Party, which governs parts of the West Bank, face independents and dissidents.

Members of various left-wing parties are also running.

The Central Elections Commission says preliminary results will be published by 16:00 (14:00 GMT) on Sunday.

The final results are due within 72 hours, the commission says, to allow time for processing objections.

The BBC's Jon Donnison reports from the West Bank that far from being a cause for celebration, most Palestinians regard this weekend's vote as a symbol of how dysfunctional their political system continues to be.

The Palestinian Authority, of which Mahmoud Abbas is president, has faced economic protests recently over rising fuel and food prices.

Lack of candidates

The first stage of the elections took place in 91 of the West Bank's 353 municipalities. Polls closed at 19:00 local time (17:00 GMT).

In 181 municipalities, councils were formed without elections due to a lack of candidates.

The Israeli military retains control of the West Bank, but the Palestinians have been given a degree of self-rule in some areas.

In Gaza, Hamas seized control in 2007, a year after winning a decisive victory in general elections. Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005 but maintains a blockade around the enclave.

An attempt at political reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas, which could have led to elections being held in both the West Bank and Gaza, has come to nothing.

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