The main Palestinian faction Fatah kicked off its election campaign at a highly symbolic site on Tuesday. It was the tomb of former president Yasser Arafat in the West Bank city of Ramallah. Senior members had sought a delay to the vote on January 25, mainly because of increasing lawlessness in the Gaza Strip.
President Mahmoud Abbas rejected the call but has since said that there will be no election if Israel prevents Palestinians in East Jerusalem from taking part.
Well-known politician Hanan Ashrawi, running for the new Third Way party, was prevented from handing out leaflets in east Jerusalem by Israeli police on Tuesday. She was not arrested, but one of her assistants was detained, as was independent candidate Mustafa Barghouti. The Islamist movement Hamas has rejected any postponement of the Palestinians’ first general election in ten years.
This is the first time Hamas is contesting a legislative vote and its anti-corruption stance could see it win a third of the seats in the Legislative Council or parliament. The head of a team of European Union election observers, already in place, has repeated the EU’s support for Hamas’ taking part.