On Saturday the 11th of December local elections were held in the West Bank. Palestinians could vote in in a total of 376 mostly rural communities. The municipal and local elections will be divided into two phases, the first vote on the 11th of December and the second on the 26th of March 2022. The second part of the elections will include elections in Gaza and larger municipalities in the West Bank. According to critics, the elections have been split up in two phases to see how Fatah would perform in the first vote in order to decide if the second vote will take place.
The first phase had a turnout of 66.4 percent and the majority of the winners, over 70 percent, were independent candidates. Amongst the candidates that belonged to a specific party, Fatah seems to have won the most seats. However, most of the successes for Fatah were in communities where there was an uncontested list. The elections took place while support for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has been in decline. Abbas has been president since 2005, and while his term was initially supposed to end in 2009, there have not been general elections in Palestine for 15 years. Thus, Abbas has been in power as President of Palestine ever since. After his unpopular decision to indefinitely postpone the general elections scheduled for May 22, 2021, Abbas has been under pressure from the population and has seen his popularity decrease.
Decreasing support for Abbas and Fatah
While Abbas’ decision to postpone the general elections has been widely criticized, it has not been the only reason for his declining popularity. The death of a prominent activist in the custody of the security forces in August led to widespread anger and protests in Palestine. The protests led to a hard crackdown by the Palestinian Authority. The 11-day war with Israel in May of 2021 also increased criticism of Abbas. According to a poll from September 2021, nearly 80 percent of the Palestinians wanted Abbas to resign. Furthermore, only 19 percent of the respondents believed that Fatah should lead and represent the Palestinians.
While the support for Abbas has been plummeting, support for Hamas has been rising. The 11-day war with Israel increased support for Hamas, which was seen as the victor of the conflict, while Abbas was sidelined. While the polls showed a decrease in support for Fatah and Abbas, the same poll showed that 45 percent of the Palestinians believed that Hamas should lead and represent them.
Boycott of the elections
Hamas, the main challenger of President Abbas’ Fatah party, had boycotted to first round of the local and municipal elections on the 11th of December. The boycott is a protest against the indefinite postponement of the general elections. According to Hamas, the general elections have been postponed due to the a predicted loss for Fatah. A spokesperson for Hamas said that with regards to the municipal and local elections that it: ‘’refuses to participate in partial elections that are tailored to Fatah, and conducted by the Palestinian Authority.’’