The Palestinian High Judicial Council has issued an order to cancel local elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip until at least December.
According to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party, the elections, which were due to be held next month, have been put on old until it could look into several appeals. The next hearing hearing would only be held 21 December.
The 8 October vote would have been the first contest at the ballot box between Abbas’ Fatah and arch-rival Islamic militant group Hamas, since their territorial split in 2007.
In that year, Hamas seized the Gaza Strip, leaving Abbas with autonomous enclaves in the Israeli-controlled West Bank. The elections were being seen as a proxy vote on the popularity of President Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah party versus the Islamist terrorist Hamas.
A court official confirmed the ruling delaying the vote. Speaking on condition of anonymity, she said she could only speak to reporters once the decision was published later Thursday.
The ruling follows court submissions by Hamas in Gaza against party lists drawn up by Fatah. The dispute underlines the legal and political divisions between Abbas’s Palestinian Authority, which governs the West Bank, and Hamas, which has controlled Gaza since 2007.
“Elections can’t take place in one place and not the other,” the presiding judge of the Ramallah court said in his ruling.
“We hold Hamas fully responsible for foiling the election, starting with the unjustified petitions it filed,” Fatah spokesman Osama Al-Qawasmi said, accusing Hamas of using “private courts” in Gaza to block Fatah’s lists.
Hamas spokesperson in Gaza Sami Abu Zuhri said the High Judicial Council order to stop the electoral process, “is a political decision. We reject the decision and call on everyone to reject it,” he added.