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Gaza-based Hamas de facto Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh.

January 25, 2006 was the last time Gazans voted for their ruling government, and the Hamas movement won it, with Ismail Haniyeh nominated for Prime Minister. Hamas then established a national unity government with the PLO, which collapsed shortly thereafter when Hamas violently removed the PLO from the Strip. Things remained the same for a decade, through three violent confrontations with Israel, until, last week, Hamas surprised everyone by declaring free municipal elections in the Gaza Strip, to coincide with the next round of municipal elections in the PA, scheduled for October 8.

Hamas says it is planning to run a national slate made up of technocrats (who just happen to all be Hamas members). Representatives of different parties in Gaza swore an oath last week, to abide by the elections rules and to respect the candidates and the deals that they make, and, most important, abide by the election results and by the decisions of the central elections committee.

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The last time the Palestinian Authority held municipal elections was in 2012. Now a PA delegation has met with Haniyeh to discuss extending the municipal vote to the Gaza Strip as well.

According to Ynet, the reason Hamas may be prepared to open up the Gaza municipalities to PLO representatives is that Hamas is hoping to capitalize on its popularity in the PA, where the public has had enough of the corrupt PLO leadership. Hamas has won the student union elections in key PA universities such as Bir Zeit and the Hebron Politechnic. The Hamas leadership is convinced they have the momentum in the PA, and the municipal elections could serve as their trial balloon. Their aim, is, of course, for the PA to be forced to declare national elections, where the chances would be high that a Hamas candidate, most likely Ismail Haniyeh, would win the Chairmanship.

Voter registration opened on Saturday, including registration online. Eligible voters will have five days to join the reported 2 million voters who have already registered, constituting, according to the Palestinian Authority Central Elections Commission, 78.5% of the eligible voters in Judea and Samaria (including eastern Jerusalem) and in Gaza.

In 2006, there were 1,341,671 registered voters and 1,042,424 votes cast, according the Palestinian Authority Central Elections Commission.

In 2013, voter registration the Palestinian Authority suddenly jumped by 300,000 voters in the span of around 6 months. That massive influx of newly registered voters primarily originated from Gaza.

For comparison’s sake, in Israel’s 2015 elections, there were 5,881,696 registered Israeli voters and 4,254,738 votes case.

While back in 2006, Israel had 5,014,622 registered voters.

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