Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah movement said on Sunday it had won most council seats in the West Bank after local elections boycotted by rival Hamas Islamists.

In the West Bank’s big cities — Ramallah, Jenin, Nablus, Qalqiliya, Tulkarm, Jericho, Bethlehem and Hebron — the official Fatah list won 94 seats out of 147, according to near-final results.

Fatah affiliates — or candidates who broke away from the official Fatah list but remain identified with the secular movement — won another 45.

Fatah also scored big in the villages after forming coalitions with families and local factions.

Fatah’s victory was expected as it ran almost uncontested after the Hamas movement which controls the Gaza Strip boycotted the vote.

Hamas banned voting in the Gaza Strip and said it would not recognize the results in the West Bank.

“The results are proof of the confidence the majority of our people have in the movement,” Fatah spokesman Ahmad Assaf said in a statement.

Fatah supporters celebrated in city, driving through the streets, waving yellow party flags and sounding their horns. The vote was held in 93 towns and villages.

The poll was the first in Palestinian areas in seven years. Hamas and Fatah have failed to implement an Egyptian-brokered national unity agreement to end their rift, which has led to the suspension of long—overdue parliamentary and presidential elections.

Central Elections Commission president Hanna Nasser said official results would be announced later Sunday.

Mr. Nasser said that 54.8 per cent of more than 500,000 eligible West Bank voters had turned out to vote.

The elections showed a lack of consensus within Fatah, which was actually competing against itself, said public relations expert and political scientist Nashat Aqtash of Birzeit University, near Ramallah.

Fatah therefore lost many seats to defectors, he said.

Mr. Aqtash, who ran Hamas’ public relations during the last parliamentary elections in 2006, said any turnout lower than 70 per cent for the municipal elections was “unacceptable.” The turnout of under 55 per cent was an expression of Palestinian dissatisfaction, he said.

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