The Palestinian high court in Ramallah [official website] on Monday amended a previous ruling, holding that municipal elections can take place, but only in West Bank and not in the Gaza Strip. The court had previously held that the election, once scheduled for October 8, would not proceed after Hamas disputed party lists drawn by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party. In adjusting its previously holding, the court said that it would “implement the cabinet’s decision to hold elections in all local councils except in the Gaza Strip,” [Reuters report] saying that Gaza did not have the necessary “guarantees” to hold the polls. The new election date must be decided upon within four weeks. Hamas has been quick to criticize the decision as politically motivated [Times of Israel report]. Had the court allowed elections to take place in the Gaza Strip it would have been the first election between Hamas and Fatah since 2006. Hamas had won a majority of the seats in the legislative polls in 2006, sparking a tumultuous rift in Palestinian politics, culminating in Hamas seizing the Gaza Strip from Abbas-loyal forces in 2007. No Palestinian presidential election has taken place since 2005 and Abbas has retained office since despite expiration of his term.
The judicial system in Palestine has given rise to both internal and external criticism. In April Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas established a controversial new constitutional court [JURIST report]. Those that opposed the creation point out that Abbas stacked the court in his favor by appointing justices from his own political party widening the split between the Fatah and Hamas political groups. In August Human Rights Watch released a report [JURIST report] that detailed five cases in Gaza and the West Bank where journalists and activists were arrested or detained by authorities due to their peaceful criticism of authorities. Activists suggested that court proceedings are used as a means to harass them into silence as they are often delayed and rescheduled due to lack of witnesses, which requires their constant presence at the court. In May a UN spokesperson urged Gaza to end the use of the death penalty [JURIST report] as the UN feels that Gaza’s standard in execution cases is lacking.