15 May, 2017
The Palestinians have been divided between rival governments since Hamas defeated Fatah in the 2006 legislative elections and drove the latter out of the Gaza Strip the following year, leaving Abbas in control only of the Palestinian Authority autonomy government in parts of the West Bank.
Some polls show that if parliamentary elections were held now, Hamas would win them in both Gaza and the West Bank.
Elections commission spokesman Fared Tomallah says some 390 councils are being chosen, with 145 of them being contested by multiple candidates.
The West Bank and Gaza have not participated in an election together since 2006, when Hamas swept Palestinian parliamentary polls, sparking a conflict that almost led to civil war in Gaza the following year. Palestinians choose mayors and local councils in communities across the West Bank, a rare chance to cast ballots after more than a decade without presidential or legislative elections.
Ramallah, the Palestinian political capital, saw turnout of less than 40 per cent.
The impact of the Hamas boycott was visible in Hebron and Al Bireh in the West Bank, said Harb, "because these two cities are known Hamas strongholds". Results will be announced Sunday. East Jerusalem's 300,000 residents didn't take part in the elections.More news: Mostly cloudy today, rain on the way
Abbas, whose term was meant to end in 2009 but who has remained in office, has grown unpopular among Palestinians, but he remains their leader in the eyes of the world. "Municipalities need qualified people, people who are capable of improving the level of services and meet the growing needs of the people".
Voter turnout, particularly in major cities, was dismally low, with Nablus barely over 20% turnout, and others all well under 50%, though Fatah insisted it was no worse than 2012.
Senwar's election symbolized the rise of the military wing's influence over Hamas' political branch and its decision-making process.
"I came to exercise my democratic rights", said Bishara Dabbah, a 55-year-old Ramallah resident.
Electoral worker gives a ballot to a voter at a polling station in the West Bank city of Nablus, Saturday, May 13, 2017.
Palestinians in the occupied West Bank voted in municipal elections on Saturday, underscoring deep rifts between President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party and rival Hamas which runs the Gaza Strip.