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West Bank Palestinians Vote in Municipal Elections Saturday

West Bank Palestinians Vote in Municipal Elections Saturdayā€¯

Polling stations across the West Bank were open all day on Saturday as 4,411 candidates vied for 1,561 seats in local Palestinian elections.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party was ahead in most of the West Bank's main cities after municipal elections that highlighted persistent divisions with its rival Hamas, results showed Sunday. Abbas's Palestinian Authority, which governs in the West Bank, and Hamas, which runs Gaza, blamed each other for the vote not being held in the small coastal enclave.

Elections commission spokesman Fared Tomallah says some 390 councils are being chosen, with 145 of them being contested by multiple candidates.

Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah says Hamas prevented its members from taking part in the election.

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The Palestinian high court ruled in October that the municipal elections should be held only in the West Bank because the judiciary in Gaza did not have the necessary "guarantees" in place - a decision denounced by Hamas as "political".

There haven't been presidential and parliamentary elections since 2005 and Abbas' term has officially long expired.

"It's important that everyone has a say", but also that those elected "assume the responsibility given to them", said Rami Nazal, a United Nations employee who voted in Ramallah, the seat of the Palestinian Authority.

One-hundred and forty-five West Bank localities were up for grabs.

In just two cities, Jenin and Jericho, did Fatah win an outright victory without support from other participating factions. East Jerusalem's 300,000 residents didn't take part in the elections.

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Although Saturday's vote was the first legislative election in the West Bank in over a decade, turnout was low, with just 53 percent of eligible voters casting their ballots.

Rival lists also looked to the same electorate.

Palestinians typically vote in municipal elections according to political bases.

However, turnout was far lower in large cities than in surrounding communities, with the lowest in Nablus, the main city in the northern West Bank, where it was less than 21 percent.

"I came to exercise my democratic rights", said Bishara Dabbah, a 55-year-old Ramallah resident. Nearly 50% of eligible voters turned out on Saturday.

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