Recent news arriving from balloting stations show that the ruling Fatah movement gained a narrower edge over Hamas in local elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip on Friday, with Fatah winning 56 percent and Hamas 33 percent of the vote.

More recent unofficial election results indicate Fatah won a majority in 45 of 84 communities. However, Hamas won a majority in 23, the remaining 16 councils were shared between leftists and independent candidates lists. 

Hamas has disputed the results, claiming a majority win in 34 communities. The movement said that some of Hamas affiliates ran as independent candidates because they feared arrest by Israel.

Earlier results showed a stronger show up for Fatah.  

Preliminary unofficial results indicates that the ruling Palestinian Fatah movement has won around 60% of municipal council at 84 Palestinian localities, Hamas won around 30% and 20% were shared between leftist groups, with the popular front for the liberation of Palestine (PFLP) taking a lead, and independent candidates.

The process of counting votes continued tell Friday early morning hours, when preliminary results at various localities were announced. Poll stations opened doors on Thursday at 7:00 A.M.

The percentage of participants is expected to exceed 80%; the highest registered ever. The official results will be announced by the national election committee on Sunday.

Fatah’s strong appearance has lowered fears of a Hamas triumph, especially in the slated for July 17, parliamentary elections.

Hamas claimed victories in the El-Bureij refugee camp in central Gaza, and managed to won the majority of seats in the West Bank city of Qalqyliah. The new city mayor will be a Hamas representative, marking a first time precedence.

In the Bethlehem area, seats were shared by Fatah, Hamas and the PFLP. In Beit Shaour and Beit Jala, Fatah took a slight lead over the PFLP. In the city of Bethlehem, Hamas won six of the seven seats allocated for Moslems, while Fatah and the PFLP shared the seats allocated for Christians.

According to initial results, Fatah came unexpectedly strong in the Gaza Strip elections. It is almost certain that the ruling Palestinian movement won the majority of seats in the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah, Beit Lahia in the north and Absan in the center.

‘The preliminary results assure the Palestinian people that Fatah continues to be the strongest and the most influential faction,’ said Jibril Rajoub, a security adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Hamas leaders presented a different picture, saying the Islamic movement was making a very good progress.

‘All the information being spread is false. Our observers in the municipal councils where Hamas is participating say that our movement is making very good progress,’ Hamas West Bank leader Hassan Youssef said.

Complains on election violations:

Various parties and candidates lists filed complains on election violations at different localities.

The most serious violation came as a group of about 20 masked men stormed two polling stations in the West Bank village of Attarah and destroyed three ballot boxes as votes were being tallied, an election official said.

Most other complains were related to lists of unregistered voters. The election committee decided to allow citizens who have not registered in voters’ registration stations to vote. Additional balloting stations were opened for them based on the civil record of citizens.

Dozens of complains were filed on names being lost or omitted from civil records. The election committee explained that all voters’ lists, including the civil records has been published to the public and then approved; dismissing requests to allow residents with no names in the records the right to vote.

Voting in few localities, especially in the northern part of the West bank was disrupted by army incursions.

More than 2,500 candidates vied for the council seats. 400,000 Palestinians were eligible to vote.

Elections went fairly smoothly in the vast majority of cities, towns and villages. Candidates of various competing lists managed to keep a warm relation to each other during the entire election campaign.

No matter who won more seats, most municipalities ended up being politically multi-colored, and Palestinian democracy has won another round.