Fatah Struggles in Palestinian Local Elections

Boycotts Lead to Low Turnouts, Voter Apathy

by Jason Ditz, May 14, 2017

The Fatah Party of President Mahmoud Abbas has “won” the local Palestinian elections, which comes as little surprise since they were largely the only faction taking part. This was a very limited victory, however, with the polling numbers showing them struggling mightily to retain any semblance of support.

The elections were only held in the occupied West Bank, with courts blocking any effort to hold elections including Gaza, which led Hamas not to submit any candidates. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) also boycotted, giving the sense this wasn’t much of a real vote, with Fatah running against a handful of smaller PLO factions.

Even then Fatah only managed convincing wins in a couple of cities, Jenin and Jericho, struggling to even field a list in a lot of cities and having to run joint lists with independents to try to get on the ballot. Fatah lost in Hebron, notably, the largest city in the West Bank.

Voter turnout, particularly in major cities, was dismally low, with Nablus barely over 20% turnout, and others all well under 50%, though Fatah insisted it was no worse than 2012.

Which isn’t really a measure, because turnout was terrible in 2012 too. The last time the Palestinians had a strong turnout for an election was the 2006 parliamentary vote,, which Fatah decisively lost to Hamas, and then chose to ignore. It’s unsurprising this had bred a sense of apathy among voters.

What this means for the future of Palestinian elections is unclear, though with Abbas over a decade into a four-year term in office, there’s a sense among voters that their vote really doesn’t count for much, and that the Palestinian Authority largely stumbles along on its own momentum.

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