Palestinians open election registration offices in West Bank and Gaza

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GAZA (Reuters) – Palestinians opened election registration offices in Gaza and the West Bank on Wednesday, one day after rival factions agreed steps to ensure that the first elections in 15 years go ahead.

The two dominant factions – Fatah and Hamas – convened in Cairo this week with 12 other groups for Egyptian-brokered talks on how to prepare for parliamentary elections on May 22 and a presidential vote on July 31.

There are still many obstacles, amid widespread scepticism about the feasibility of holding elections in three different areas: the parts of the occupied West Bank where the Palestinian Authority exercises limited self-rule, Hamas-controlled Gaza, and East Jerusalem, which is under Israeli control.

But speaking in Cairo on Wednesday, Jibril Rajoub, the head of Fatah’s delegation to the talks, insisted that the elections would go ahead, even if it meant going against the will of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and “the will of all the enemies of the Palestinian people”.

There are 2.8 million eligible voters in Gaza and the West Bank, and 85% of them have so far been registered. The voting age is 18. Israel allowed Palestinian elections in East Jerusalem last time.

Reporting by Nidal Almughrabi in Gaza and Sherif Fahmy and Mohamed Zaki in Cairo; Editing by Giles Elgood

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