Palestinians move election to October

The government of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has postponed municipal elections by three months until October, saying it needs more time to ensure the vote can be held in both the West Bank and Gaza.

The decision was part of a recent reconciliation process between Abbas’ Fatah movement and the Islamic militant Hamas group.

The municipal elections will be a key test for the Palestinians, providing the first gauge of each side’s popularity and giving a strong indicator of whether they can get along. After last week’s deal, Fatah and Hamas are working on forming a unity government — a process that is expected to take weeks or even months.

Abbas’ West Bank government said May 17 it decided to put off the elections from July 9 to Oct. 22, to allow reconciliation to take hold and “to provide the proper atmosphere to hold the elections in the entire Palestinian territories.”

Hamas, which had said it would boycott the vote when elections were first set, has reversed that stand.

“Hamas will participate in all elections and this is something that has been stated in the reconciliation deal,” said Ismail Radwan, a Hamas leader. The Palestinians hope to hold national legislative and presidential elections next year. — ap