BETHLEHEM - The Palestinian Authority cabinet on Tuesday tasked the local government minister with preparing for local elections, with a view to announcing the date for the poll next week.
Meeting in Ramallah, cabinet ministers said the decision was taken after Hamas suspended the work of the Central Elections Commission in the Gaza Strip.
The commission was set to begin updating voter rolls in the coastal enclave on Tuesday, in preparation for national elections slated for this year.
A PA cabinet statement said it asked minister Khaled Qawasmi to prepare for local polls "as a national necessity, in order not to have one party hold hostage citizens rights to chose their representatives."
The government expects to announce the date of local elections at its next meeting on Tuesday.
Presidential, parliamentary and local government elections are all overdue since Fatah and Hamas split bitterly over Hamas' electoral success in 2006.
The Fatah-led West Bank government has repeatedly attempted to initiate local elections, to the outcry of Hamas who insist the vote must be conducted nationally, and thus coordinated with them.
The PA says local pressure is mounting to revitalize the local councils, with Tuesday's cabinet statement citing "difficulties resulting from expiration period of elected councils which cause weaknesses in performance."
As part of a May 2011 reconciliation deal, the parties pledged to prepare for fresh elections to unite the Gaza Strip and West Bank, under rival administrations since 2007.
The deal has repeatedly faltered as the parties spar over its implementation. In the latest chapter, Hamas called off electoral registration in the Gaza Strip on Monday, a day before the process was set to start, citing political partiality concerns and highlighting repression of its members in the West Bank.