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Fatah divisions force delay of Palestinian vote

RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) - The West Bank-based Palestinian Authority on Thursday indefinitely postponed local elections scheduled for July due to divisions in the Fatah party over who would run, officials said.

In a brief statement, the cabinet, which is stacked with Fatah members, did not say why it had decided to put off the election that had been scheduled for July 17, but the officials said it was because Fatah could not agree a unified list.

The cancellation was a sign of the problems faced by a party that once dominated Palestinian politics but has struggled to maintain its stature since Yasser Arafat’s death in 2004.

Hamas Islamists, who seized control of the Gaza Strip from Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in 2007, had already said they would boycott the vote. Abbas is also the leader of Fatah, which was co-founded by Arafat in 1954.

“Registration was taken care of but in terms of parties coming up with their slates, it proved too problematic,” one official said, referring to the divisions within Fatah.

A senior Fatah member added: “What’s happening inside Fatah is that there are people who are running against each other. We need some time in order to solve these internal problems.”

Another official said there was also concern that a low turnout would be seen as a moral victory for Hamas, which defeated Fatah in 2006 legislative elections, the last held by the Palestinians.

Abbas had called legislative and presidential elections for January but they were postponed due to a Hamas ban on participation in the Gaza Strip. Hamas disputes Abbas’s legitimacy and his right to call elections.

Additional reporting by Mohammed Assadi; Editing by Elizabeth Fullerton