In this Jan. 7, 2005 file photo, an election campaign banner showing then presidential candidate Mahmoud Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, at left and the late Yasser Arafat hangs in Jerusalem. (AP Photo/Enric Marti, File)
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Palestinian rivals Hamas and Fatah are gearing up for their first contest at the polls since 2006 – a vote for mayors and local councils in 425 communities in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.At the time, the Islamist group Hamas seized Gaza, driving out Fatah, while Fatah's leader, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, cracked down on Hamas in the autonomous areas of the West Bank.The last municipal elections were held in 2012, but only in parts of the West Bank, and Hamas didn't compete because it couldn't agree with Abbas on procedure. When Abbas decided earlier this year to call for local elections in 2016, as scheduled, he likely expected Hamas to stay out of the race again, analysts said.Hamas recognized Abbas' general election commission as final arbiter, while Abbas agreed that Hamas institutions would supervise the vote in Gaza.Abbas was elected to a four-year term as president in 2005, while Hamas defeated Fatah in 2006 parliament elections, creating a political stalemate that eventually led to Hamas' Gaza takeover and a West Bank crackdown on the Islamic militants.In the October vote, Hamas is competing indirectly in the West Bank by backing nominally independent Islamists or forging alliances with other factions, including Fatah.
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