Palestinian parliamentary elections, originally set for July 17, will be postponed till late January 2006, Palestinian Information Minister Nabil Sha’ath said Sunday.

Sha’ath said Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas would soon issue a Presidential decree setting the new official election date, aiming for around January 20, however consultation with Palestinian factions is needed prior to setting the date.

Sha’ath said that factions would also meet this week to agree on the exact date.

Abbas had issued an official decree in June postponing the elections.  Although he cited technical reasons for the delay, it is seen as likely that his motive is to consolidate security and government reforms before facing the voters, to lower chances for the Islamic resistance movement Hamas win.

Hamas was not happy with the decision to delay the elections and was viewed as a violation of the agreement reached in the talks between the Palestinian factions and the PA in Cairo, in March of this year, in which also calm was declared by the resistance.

Hamas had a strong showing in the three rounds of municipal elections all over the west Bank and Gaza Strip.

Hamas has decided to contest the Parliamentary elections for the first time, after it had boycotted it in 1996 and partially boycotted the presidential elections of January 2005.  Hamas did not nominate a candidate, but left the choice to vote open for its members.

Israel has threatened to delay the pullout if Hamas wins the parliamentary elections.  The delay would set the balloting until after disengagement is completed.