The Palestinian High Court of Justice in Ramallah ordered on Thursday the suspension of the Palestinian municipal elections in the West Bank and Gaza until an undetermined date, putting the future of the long awaited elections in jeopardy.
The elections were supposed to take place in 416 locales on October 8.
The High Court’s decision comes in response to a petition submitted by a Palestinian lawyer, Nael al-Houh, calling for the elections’ suspension due to—the illegitimacy of the judicial and security institutions in Gaza and the exclusion of many Jerusalem municipalities from the elections, according to Maan, a Palestinian news site.
The Palestinian Authority does not recognize the legitimacy of the judicial, security, and other institutions in Gaza, which Hamas has operated since it took over the coastal enclave in 2007.
The court said it will reconvene on December 21 to discuss the petition.
Hours before the high court decision, a Hamas-supervised appeals court in Gaza disqualified five Fatah lists running in the municipal elections in Khan Younis, al-Qarar, al-Fukhari, Absan al-Kabira, and al-Shawka.
In addition, the Palestinian Central Elections Commission disqualified four other Fatah lists earlier this week, meaning Fatah cannot compete in nine of 25 locales in Gaza.
Fatah Spokesman Fayez Abu Aitah condemned the Gazan courts’ decision. “Disqualifying these lists constitutes a massacre carried out by the Hamas courts against Fatah lists in Gaza,” Abu Aitah said. Hamas Spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri responded to Abu Aitah, saying, “Fatah’s rejections of the courts’ decisions have no legal significance because the rulings of these courts are binding for all parties.”
Fatah and Hamas have exchanged barbs for the past many weeks, accusing each other of arresting one another’s cadres. Fatah and Hamas have not participated in elections on the national level since the 2006 parliamentary elections.