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Palestinian elections: Despite Hamas boycott, Fatah fares poorly

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The results add to mounting concerns about Fatah – and the broader Palestinian leadership – losing its legitimacy. Mr. Abbas, who doubles as Fatah chairman, has been unable to secure progress on a variety of fronts, from peace talks with Israel, to reconciliation with Hamas, to last year's membership bid at the United Nations, to an economic crisis that has once again delayed payday for Palestinian Authority (PA) employees – all of whom are still waiting to be paid for September.

Steppingstone to national elections

Municipal elections, the first in at least six years, were seen as a potential way to boost the PA's credibility and create momentum for national elections – badly needed to restore the Palestinian legislature after a split five years ago with Hamas, the Islamist movement that has governed the coastal Gaza Strip ever since.

“I think that a lot of people across the political spectrum are hoping and working to use these elections as a starting point toward national elections and to pressure Hamas … to conform with the will of the majority of the people to have the national elections as soon as possible,” says Qais Abdul-Karim, a veteran politician and member of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

Mr. Abdul-Karim says overall the elections strengthened the Palestinian political system, but argues that time is running short for nationwide elections – and that there is growing support among decisionmakers in the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) for holding such elections even if Hamas threatens to boycott them as well.

“In my opinion, the time that we have got is very narrow,” he says. “I think that there is an urgent need for the political system to renovate … its legitimacy through [national] elections.”

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