Hamas, the militant Islamic rival to Fatah that rules the Gaza Strip, is boycotting the West Bank polling, despite decent chances of success in Nablus and an expected respectable showing elsewhere. In the last municipal vote in 2005, it swept to power in Nablus, Tulkarem, Qalqilya and other cities – a harbinger of its stunning victory in legislative elections a year later.
But Fatah would not allow Hamas to rule in Gaza despite its victory, so the frustrated movement staged an armed takeover of Gaza in 2007, splitting the Palestinian territories into two rival governments. Efforts to heal the rift have floundered, with each side unwilling to share power in its area of dominance. The decision by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, of Fatah, to go ahead with municipal elections and by Hamas to call on voters to boycott the election is causing further acrimony.
Abdullah Abdullah, a legislator from Fatah, argues that the Palestinian Authority cannot wait for reconciliation to go ahead with elections because municipal services and capabilities cannot be allowed to be stunted indefinitely.
"We cannot keep these municipalities on hold. Reconciliation is important but you need to look after the local water, garbage collection, electricity, and streets. We have to freshen our mandate for our municipal leaders. It's what democracy is all about," he says.