Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said Wednesday that the reason his party suspended electoral preparation in the Gaza Strip, effectively calling a halt to reconciliation with their Fatah rivals, was as a direct response to political repression in the West Bank.
Addressing a rally against political arrests by students in Gaza City, Abu Zuhri said recent events in Hebron University were the last straw in a string of events persuading Hamas to call off election groundwork.
Around 10 students are holding a sit-in in the southern West Bank university, and several of them have been on hunger strike for a week, a Ma’an correspondent said. They are protesting the detention of Hamas members by the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority.
Abu Zuhri said Hamas insists elections be carried out in a fair environment, and the PA’s detentions led them to halt the work of the Central Election Commission in updating Gaza’s voter register last week, a day before the process was due to launch.
The commission was set to open registration centers across Gaza between July 3 and 14, the first such initiative to update the registers since the last local elections were held in January 2005.
Electoral registration was slated as the first step to implementing the long-stalled reconciliation deal between the factions signed in May 2011, ushering in promised elections to reunite Gaza and the West Bank.
Fatah officials accused Hamas of backing out of the deal.
Hamas has provided several reasons for stopping the electoral commission. As well as political arrests, Abu Zuhri said at the time that the movement was concerned about confusion surrounding appointment of oversight bodies for the registration process.
He also said parties had committed to start registration for the Palestinian National Council, the legislative body of the PLO, in tandem with elections in the Palestinian territory, but this had not taken place.
Hamas leader Mahmud Zahhar then accused the electoral commission of being dominated by Fatah members, a charge vehemently denied by the commission.
Abu Zuhri on Wednesday called on Egypt, who brokered the reconciliation deal, to press the PA to stop detaining Hamas members and ensure the implementation of the agreement.