Abbas postpones Palestine polls again
Ramallah - The Western-backed Palestinian president delayed local elections for a third time on Monday without setting a new date.
Palestinian democracy has been crippled since the Islamic militant Hamas violently overran the Gaza Strip in 2007, forming a rival government to President Mahmoud Abbas' West Bank-based Palestinian Authority.
Abbas has overstayed his own term and is ruling the West Bank by decree. Municipal elections were initially scheduled for July 2010.
Abbas said Monday that he wanted to make sure elections take place in both Palestinian territories.
"We have decided to postpone the local elections until better conditions are available. and to enable the election commission to work in all parts of the country," he said in a decree.
That is the same reason he gave for delaying the voting the last time, from July 9 to October 22. In the meantime, Hamas-Fatah talks on implementing a recent reconciliation pact have stalled.
A senior Hamas official in Gaza agreed that elections should not be held until the reconciliation deal takes effect.
"We agreed in the Cairo [reconciliation] agreement that all elections, local and parliamentary, would be held after forming the government," said the official, Ismail Alashkar. "We welcome Abbas' decree postponing them."
Fatah may lose
Analysts have said they think Abbas is afraid his Fatah movement would lose in the voting.
Municipal elections would have provided a first indication of the two movements' popularity. They would also have been the first balloting in the Palestinian territories since January 2006, when Hamas defeated Fatah.
The international community shunned the Hamas-led government because of the group's refusal to recognise Israel or renounce violence against it.
Hamas and Fatah then formed a short-lived joint government that failed to restore international financial aid and ultimately collapsed into heavy fighting that led to formation of the rival governments.