İrem UZUN -TDO- The two biggest Palestinian factions, Fatah and Hamas, have agreed to hold the first elections in Palestine in nearly 15 years.  Polls will be scheduled within six months under a deal agreed by Fatah, Palestinian Authority (PA) leader Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas political chief Ismail Haniya. The Fatah-led Palestinian Authority controls the West Bank, while the Hamas group rules the Gaza Strip. 

The factions renewed reconciliation efforts after Israel reached diplomatic accords this month with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, an event that dismayed Palestinians and prompted their leaders to try to present a united front.  “The two sides have agreed in principle to hold elections within six months,” said Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas official in Istanbul, where officials from both groups met over the past two days. Fatah official Jibril Al-Rajoub confirmed the agreement and said Abbas would issue a decree setting a date.  He added the vote would be in stages - starting with parliament, then electing a new president, and then choosing members of the Palestine Liberation Organization, the Palestinians’ highest decision-making body.

If the vote goes forward, however, it would be the first Palestinian national election in fourteen years.  Palestinian legislative elections have not been held since 2006, when a Hamas victory over Fatah led to a bloody struggle for control of the Gaza Strip. Hamas expelled Fatah to the West Bank in 2007, after which the Palestinian Legislative Council essentially ceased to function. 

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