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Court: Fatah party allowed to merge poll lists

Palestinian authorities cleared the way on Monday for the ruling Fatah movement to merge rival lists of candidates for a January parliamentary ballot and end a damaging split.
/ Source: Reuters

Palestinian election authorities cleared the way on Monday for the ruling Fatah movement to merge rival lists of candidates for a January parliamentary ballot and end a damaging split.

Rivals in President Mahmoud Abbas's ruling movement had at first presented two candidate lists, then decided they wanted to merge them into one as a way to counter a challenge from surging Islamist rival Hamas.

The ruling of the electoral court was needed because the official deadline for registering candidates was Dec. 14. After an appeal, the court said it would reopen registration for a further six hours. It was not immediately clear when the six hours would begin.

The justification was that operations were suspended for six hours by the elections commission during the registration process to protest attacks by gunmen on its offices. The gunmen were from Fatah.

There is no differences between Fatah's factions on the political program of negotiating for a state alongside Israel.

Younger members seeking a bigger share of power are challenging a corruption-tainted old guard.

Hamas, committed to destroying Israel, has been boosted ahead of the election by the division in Fatah — one of the gravest crises in its 40-year history.

Polls show Fatah might get more than 45 percent if it united but could fall to 21 percent if it remained split.

Hamas, running for the first time in the legislative elections, gets about 30 percent in opinion polls. But it swept local council votes in West Bank cities last week, alarming Fatah as well as Israel, the United States and European Union.