West Bank, Gaza divded on municipal elections

The Palestinian high court in Ramallah on Oct. 3 amended a previous ruling, holding that municipal elections can take place, but only in West Bank and not in the Gaza Strip. The court had previously held that the election, once scheduled for Oct. 8, would not proceed after Hamas disputed party lists drawn by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party. In adjusting its previously holding, the court said that it would "implement the cabinet's decision to hold elections in all local councils except in the Gaza Strip," adding that Gaza did not have the necessary "guarantees" to hold the polls. The new election date must be decided within four weeks. Hamas has been quick to criticize the decision as politically motivated. Had the court allowed elections to take place in the Gaza Strip it would have been the first election between Hamas and Fatah since 2006. Hamas won a majority of the seats in the legislative polls in 2006, sparking a tumultuous rift in Palestinian politics, culminating in Hamas seizing the Strip from Abbas-loyal forces in 2007. No Palestinian presidential election has taken place since 2005 and Abbas has retained office since, despite expiration of his term.

The judicial system in Palestine has given rise to both internal and external criticism. In April President Abbas established a controversial new constitutional court. Those that opposed the creation point out that Abbas stacked the court in his favor by appointing justices from his own political party, widening the split between the Fatah and Hamas.

In August, Human Rights Watch released a report that detailed five cases in Gaza and the West Bank where journalists and activists were arrested or detained by authorities due to their peaceful criticism of authorities. Activists suggested that court proceedings are used as a means to harass them into silence. In May a UN spokesperson urged Gaza to end the use of the death penalty, finding that the Gaza authority's standard in execution cases is lacking.

From Jurist, Oct. 3. Used with permission.