Palestinians in the West Bank go to the polls on Saturday in long-delayed municipal elections that have already highlighted deep divisions in the occupied territory and stoked complaints about a lack of leadership.
The Oct. 20 ballot will hold up a cracked mirror to a political landscape clouded by financial crises, failure to reconcile the major Palestinian factions and stalemate in peacemaking efforts with Israel.
The powerful Islamist group Hamas is boycotting the election and preventing voting from taking place in the Gaza Strip, leaving the field largely clear for the mainstream Fatah party in the race to take charge of 94 West Bank towns and villages.
But, as has happened so often in the past, President Mahmoud Abbas’s nationalist Fatah movement has failed to present a united face, with party rivals presenting their own candidates.
“The sound basis for any election to take place is a healthy, political atmosphere … which is clearly lacking here,” said Issam Abdeen, a legal consultant at Palestinian Human Rights group al-Haq.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean there is voter apathy.
Streets and roundabouts across the West Bank are plastered with posters of hopeful candidates promising everything from cleaner streets and better transport to jobs and free Wi-Fi.
The familiar old Palestinian slogans calling for liberation and resistance are noticeably absent, as voters focus on their immediate needs at a time of austerity, with cash-strapped authorities struggling to pay public sector salaries.
“This is an exciting opportunity to make changes and see new people enter the local councils,” said Samer Hamdan, working in a coffee shop in Ramallah, the Palestinian administrative capital.