West Bank votes in polls underlining split

A film is screened during the third edition of the Red Carpet Film Festival at the seaport of Gaza City

Palestinians held municipal elections on Saturday in the occupied West Bank.

The election highlighted the deep rift between President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah party and Islamist rival Hamas, which runs the Gaza Strip.

More than a million Palestinians were registered to choose from among 4,400 candidates in a vote that was seen as yet another sign that reconciliation may be a long way off. Preliminary results will be announced on Sunday.

Meanwhile, Fatah accused Hamas of creating divisions within the Palestinian community after Hamas chose to boycott the local elections, despite agreeing previous year to hold the municipal elections in the West Bank.

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Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah says Hamas prevented its members from taking part in the election and called on its new political leadership to agree to a national unity government followed by comprehensive elections. "Holding them in the West Bank alone, without Gaza, will cement division", said Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum.




Organisers of the Red Carpet Human Rights Film Festival, running for the third time since 2015, say the goal is to raise awareness of hardship in the Gaza Strip, home to nearly two million Palestinians.

Fatah only won clear victories in two major cities, Jenin and Jericho. East Jerusalem's 300,000 residents didn't take part in the elections. More than 200 others either failed to submit an electoral list or submitted only one, meaning automatic appointment.

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.

Some polls show that if parliamentary elections were held now, Hamas would win them in both Gaza and the West Bank.

"I came to exercise my democratic rights", said Bishara Dabbah, a 55-year-old Ramallah resident. In an indication of public sentiment, just 53 percent of eligible voters cast ballots.

Samir Beshari, a mechanic leaning on a walking stick as he exited a polling station in central Ramallah, said his choice "wasn't just political", as above all he believed "the winners should look after the city and all its inhabitants".

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