Tomorrow the West Bank will hold the first Palestinian elections in six years. Municipal elections are important in this Fatah-controlled territory, an area primarily known for its instability. Peace talks to Israel have stalled, and there is little hope for reconciliation with the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.
Elections of any kind in the West Bank are a rarity, particularly in the city of Hebron, which hasn’t held local elections since 1976. The Hebron election is an anomaly for more reasons than one: for the first time an all-female ticket is running for Hebron city council. Maysoun Qawasmi, the leader of the Participation Ticket, told our partner The New York Times she understands the difficulties ahead.
"I can’t do it by myself. It’s not easy. I’m in the conservative city," Ms. Qawasmi explained. "The culture says that the woman, it’s OK to be a teacher but it’s not OK to be running for the elections."
Jodi Rudoren, Jerusalem bureau chief for The New York Times, describes Ms. Qawasmi's as running a "quixotic, long-shot, low-budget campaign, on the basic platform that there should be women in the council."
Whether or not Ms. Qawasmi, succeeds, the West Bank elections will be closely watched. "One interesting thing about the West Bank is that localities there have less power than they do elsewhere in the world," Ms. Rudoren explains, "partly because of Israel's occupation of the territory, and partially because of the way the Palestinian Authority and local government are financed, which is largely by European and other donors."
The West Bank candidates also face a great deal of cynicism from voters. As Ms. Rudoren noted in her Times piece, at least half of West Bank Palestinians do not plan to vote on Saturday. "In the West Bank, there is a lot of unhappiness right now," she says. "Prices are high, salaries are low… For the more than 100,000 people who work for the Palestinian Authority, their salaries have been suspended because of the financial crisis there. So there's been a lot of unrest and unhappiness with the economic situation."
In addition to the economic problems, West Bank voters feel a lack of what they call, "a political horizon," says Ms. Rudoren. There's "a lack of hope for there being any solution to the perpetual conflict here."