The Associated Press reports: Palestinian election officials said Sunday that voters choosing new local councils in the West Bank rebuffed candidates from President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah movement in five of the 11 main towns, an apparent blow to the Palestinian leader.
Fatah had hoped to revive its flagging political legitimacy with Saturday’s municipal elections, the first voting in the Palestinian territories in more than six years. With main rival Hamas boycotting the election, Fatah counted on a strong endorsement from voters.
Fatah won local council majorities in six towns, but lost in five others, a performance some said fell below expectations. In four of the towns where Fatah lost, including Ramallah, the seat of Abbas’ government, voters preferred independent lists dominated by Fatah breakaways. In a fifth, biblical Bethlehem, never a Fatah stronghold, leftists and independents won.
Election officials spoke anonymously as official results were not to be released until later in the day.
Fatah spokesman Ahmed Assad claimed Sunday that the results, also reported in the local media, signaled “huge support for the party and its program.”
However, analysts portrayed the outcome as a blow to Abbas and Fatah’s leadership. “The elections reflected people’s disappointment in the leadership’s ability to lead them to a common goal,” said pollster Nader Said.
Elections were held in 93 West Bank towns and villages, with close to 55 percent of 505,000 eligible voters casting ballots, election officials said. In 261 smaller communities, local leaders were picked by consensus or there were no candidates. Official results were expected later Sunday.
The vote was held at a difficult time for Abbas.
His Palestinian Authority, the self-rule government that controls parts of the West Bank, has been plagued by a chronic cash crisis for months, struggling to pay the salaries of some 150,000 public sector employees.
Fatah once dominated Palestinian politics, but has been in disarray since the death of Abbas’ predecessor, Yasser Arafat, in 2004. Even after being trounced by the Islamic militant group Hamas in parliament elections in 2006, Fatah largely failed to reform or reinvent itself. [Continue reading…]