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Hamas to take part in Palestinian polls after nine-year hiatus

Gaza-based movement says it will take part in local elections called by Mahmoud Abbas, saying it considered them 'necessary and important'
Hamas leader Ismail Haniya leads Eid al-Fitr prayers in Gaza city on 6 July, 2016 (AFP)

Hamas has said it will participate in local elections set for October, after boycotting the last round four years ago.

Its rival, the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority headed by president Mahmud Abbas, has said local and municipal polls will be held on October 8 throughout the Palestinian territories.

Hamas said in a statement that it considered local elections to be "necessary and important", without specifying where it would field candidates.

The movement boycotted the last round of elections held in 2012 and Gazans have been unable to vote since Hamas took power in the territory in 2007.

"Hamas will work for the success of these elections and will facilitate them in the interest of the people and the (Palestinian) cause," the statement said.

Hamas and Fatah agreed a unity deal in April 2014 that was supposed to lead to a technocratic government taking over administration of Gaza and the West Bank.

However, Hamas never accepted relinquishing its authority in Gaza, and the two sides remain at loggerheads.

In a statement published on its website, Hamas said it was entering the elections because it wanted to “take national responsibility at this sensitive time for our people and our national cause”.

“The movement recognises the necessity and importance of running local elections in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

“We want to renew our organisation based on the free will of the people expressed through the ballot box in order to develop and improve the services offered to the Palestinian people.”

The statement also pledged that the elections would be free and fair.

Ahmed Yousef, a spokesman for Hamas, told Middle East Eye: "We hope that this election will help national reconciliation if we succeeded to have transparent election as this could lay the foundation for the general election in the future.

"There is pressure coming from all the Palestinian political factions, all of them in favour of having an election.

"The people, the Islamists, in the West Bank, they also gave their approval to participate in the election. So there is no reason for the people of Gaza to reject the idea since there is a huge support for it among all the nationalists and Islamist groups here in Gaza.

"Once we have this election this might lead to a general election and national reconciliation. If we succeed and everybody accepts the result I think this is going to give us a signal to the future election."

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.