Abbas's Fatah party leading local polls in West Bank cities

Palestinian President Abbas attends opening of Center via teleconference with Bethlehem before meeting with Russian President Putin at Bocharov Ruchei state residence in Sochi

Abbas's Palestinian Authority, which governs in the West Bank, and Hamas, which runs Gaza, blamed each other for the vote not being held in the small coastal enclave.

Some polls showed that Hamas would win any hypothetical parliamentary elections held now in both Gaza and the West Bank.

They also come more than 10 years after Hamas won the majority of seats in the parliament, which left the worldwide community to deal with the implications of a Palestinian nationalist and Islamist movement finding its feet within the mainstream Palestinian political machine. Fatah has been caught in an intractable rift with Islamist Hamas.

Roughly 2.2 million Palestinians live in the West Bank, of whom just over 787,000 were eligible to vote.

"It's important that everyone has a say", but also that those elected "assume the responsibility given to them", said Rami Nazal, a United Nations employee who voted in Ramallah, the seat of the Palestinian Authority.

The impact of the Hamas boycott was visible in Hebron and Al Bireh in the West Bank, said Harb, "because these two cities are known Hamas strongholds". The first results are expected Sunday. But with the rival movements disqualifying each other's candidates, Fatah made a decision to go forward with the elections in the West Bank alone in a bid to renew its legitimacy. The 300,000 residents of east Jerusalem were not voting Saturday. Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said it was Fatah who excluded Gaza and Hamas because they were not interested in partnership.

"This is the traditional elections tactic of reaching out to tribes", said Khaled Qawasmi, a former Fatah official who was sacked for running independently.

Palestinian prime minister Rami Hamdallah accused Hamas today of sole responsibility for blocking the election in Gaza where he said it maintains a rival government that supports "separation".

Abbas, 82, is now 12 years into what was to be a four-year term and is an unpopular leader according to opinion polls.

Electoral worker gives a ballot to a voter at a polling station in the West Bank city of Nablus, Saturday, May 13, 2017.

Preliminary results in Palestinian municipal elections in the West Bank indicate a weak showing by the ruling Fatah Party of President Mahmoud Abbas, even though the rival Islamic Hamas movement stayed out of the race.

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