Palestinians held municipal elections on Saturday in the occupied West Bank, a first democratic exercise in years, but one that has also raised tensions between the rival Fatah and Hamas movements.
The election highlighted the deep rift between President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah party and Islamist rival Hamas, which runs the Gaza Strip. But without Hamas in the running, many chose to stay home and election officials said turnout was far lower than usual.
Some polls showed that Hamas would win any hypothetical parliamentary elections held now in both Gaza and the West Bank.
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.
The impact of the Hamas boycott was visible in Hebron and Al Bireh in the West Bank, said Harb, "because these two cities are known Hamas strongholds".
Hanna Nasser, chairman of the Palestinian election commission, said numerous contenders were from Fatah, while in some villages "clans and families" had decided on the candidate lists.
Hamas did not present candidates under its party label in the vote.
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The failure of Hamas and Fatah to reconcile is seen as a major obstacle to any settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Preliminary results will be announced on Sunday.
More than 4,400 candidates are competing for 1,561 council seats.
The West Bank and Gaza have not participated in an election together since 2006, when Hamas swept Palestinian parliamentary polls, sparking a conflict that almost led to civil war in Gaza the following year. Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said it was Fatah who excluded Gaza and Hamas because they were not interested in partnership.
A man looks for his name on a voter's list at a polling station in the West Bank city of Nablus, Saturday, May 13, 2017.
Abbas, whose term was meant to end in 2009 but who has remained in office, has grown unpopular among Palestinians, but he remains their leader in the eyes of the world. The 300,000 residents of east Jerusalem were not voting Saturday.
The Palestinian Central Elections Commission is now talking to Hamas about holding municipal elections in the Gaza Strip, AP reported.