8, including the Mayor of the 15-member Bethlehem
Municipal Council will be occupied by Christians in the coming
municipal elections on May 5.

The quota also includes the councils of Beit Sahour and Beit Jala where
10 of the 13-member council will be reserved for Christians while
Moslems will have three in each town.

This decision, although created some reaction, was not met with
opposition by the Islamic movements.  The Majority of the
residents of Bethlehem, Beit Sahour and Beit Jala are Christians.

The Islamic movement Hamas declared that it is going to participate in
the elections and have already named 7 candidates, which means a full
list, as Muslims will have only 7council members in the city.

Hasan Al-Wardian Hamas representative in Bethlehem said Hamas’ candidates represent wide sectors of the city.

Al-Wardian expressed hopes that his seven candidates will win and
cooperate with one or more Christian members so they will be able to
pass their bills in the council.  He added that in both Beit Jala
and Beit Sahour will have a different situation as the Muslim members
will be a minority.  The councils work with simple majority voting
and usually have an odd number of seats.

A Palestinian source reported that a decision to reserve the mayor
seats in 17 villages and towns to Christians was delayed because the
Late Palestinian President Yasser Arafat died before signing it.

However, the current Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas approved it to
‘minimize Hamas’ control over some of the councils where the mayor is a
Muslim’ according to the source.

Last elections took place in 1976 when the late mayor of Bethlehem was
Elias Freij in Bethlehem, Hanna Al-Atrash in Beit Sahour and Farah
Al-A’raj in Beit Jala. 

The elections that already took place in some of the cities and towns
and the upcoming ones are the first in 30 years, since it was almost
impossible to carry out elections under the occupation.

The Israeli military administration of the West Bank and Gaza Strip
removed some Mayors and assigned new ones during the 24 years of
control over the Palestinian areas.

Few years after the Palestinian Authority took over the civil
administration of the Palestinian land, they appointed temporary mayors
and councils after consulting with the different political parties and
families in the different regions.