Blow to Abbas in West Bank elections

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas suffered a blow after Fatah party candidates fared poorly in local elections in the West Bank on Saturday.

In an elections boycotted by Hamas, which saw a turn-out of only 55 per cent, the Fatah faced greatly diminished opposition. However, three cities elected lists of candidates featuring politicians ejected from Fatah for running against the party’s official candidates.

The most notable victory was that of former Fatah and PLO leader Ghassan Shakaa, who is now mayor of West Bank city Nablus. Fatah breakaways also won in Ramallah and Jenin.

Commentators, as well as Fatah members, have been quick to blame fractiousness within the party which split the secular vote.

Before the results came in on Sunday evening, President Mahmoud Abbas praised the elections as a “democratic process” and said he hoped they would clear the path for parliamentary and presidential elections.

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad was less positive. Prime Minster Fayyad strongly criticised Hamas for the boycott, saying: "Hamas used baseless excuses in order to deprive the people in Gaza from exercising their right to vote, claiming the elections widen the rift. It is wrong to hold civilians as hostages."

Last updated: 9:03am, October 22 2012