Ramallah, Oct 20 (IANS) Around half a million Palestinians Saturday went to the ballot booths to elect 93 municipal councils in the West Bank in the first municipal elections held in the territory since 2005. However, the Gaza Strip ruled by Islamic Hamas movement has been excluded.
Officials said that 4,700 candidates are running the elections and women represent 25 percent of the councils, reported Xinhua.
There are 340 voting centres across the West Bank towns, cities and villages, and the voting went on till 7 p.m. local time.
According to the election commission's statement, more than 7, 000 observers, including 130 international observers are supervising the elections.
A Palestinian female voter called Ghada Ibrahim told Xinhua that she wanted the municipal elections to be held on time and believed that democracy is implemented, while her husband hoped all factions, including Hamas join the elections.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who cast vote in Ramallah, branding the municipal elections day "a democratic day in the Palestinian people's life," however, he expressed regret that the elections were not held all over the Palestinian territories, referring to Gaza and east Jerusalem.
Israel refused to allow the municipal elections in east Jerusalem, while Hamas movement, which seized control of the Gaza Strip by force in 2007, had also rejected the elections and refused to hold it in the coastal enclave.
Hamas and Islamic Jihad also called on their supporters to boycott the elections.
Salah el-Bardaweel, a senior Hamas leader in Gaza told Xinhua: "The file of all kinds of Palestinian elections, whether it is municipal, legislative, presidential or for the National Council (parliament in exile) must be held as a one-package as part of the reconciliation understandings reached between Hamas and Abbas."
The official added that Hamas doesn't recognize the results of the municipal elections "because it is empowering the internal Palestinian division."
Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, who also voted on Saturday, told reporters that elections are so important as "it was held after years of postponement. It is a democratic merit and legal right of every Palestinian in the Palestinian territories."
Mekhemar Abu Se'da, a political science professor at al-Azhar University in Gaza told Xinhua that holding the municipal elections in the West Bank, excluding east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip "can never help ending the Palestinian internal division and achieve reconciliation."
"If the elections are legislative or presidential and only held in the West Bank, then we can say that it empowers the internal division," he added.