West Bank Elections
A Catholic nun helps an elderly woman cast her ballot for municipal elections in the West Bank city of Bethlehem

The first local polls in six years are taking place in the West Bank, though the Islamist group Hamas, which controls the Gaza strip, is boycotting the delayed elections, claiming that there has been insufficient political change ahead of such moves.

Hamas's absence means that more than 50 per cent of the constituencies do not have enough candidates for elections to take place.

The remaining candidates are mostly from the Fatah Party, controlled by President Mahmoud Abbas, and independents or candidates from leftist groups. A patch-up between the Fatah and Hamas for simultaneous elections to the West Bank and Gaza did not succeed, leading to the current independent elections in the West Bank.

Voting is taking place in 92 of the 353 municipalities of the West Bank during the first stage of the elections. Local councils were formed in 181 municipalities owing to a lack of candidates. No candidates were fielded in 78 districts and in other districts with just one set of candidates, elections went uncontested.

As many as 515,000 voters have registered from the West Bank, including 10,000 members of the police and security forces, Central Elections Commission director Hisham Khahil told reporters.

Campaigning for the first phase of the polls ended on 18 October. The polls will be supervised by 4,600 party representatives, 1,890 local observers, 550 journalists and 130 international observers and guests.

The elections are a result of Israel allowing a degree of self-rule in some areas of the West Bank, though the area is completely under Israeli military control.

This is unlike Gaza, which was seized by Hamas in 2007, two years after Israel withdrew from the area.

Streets and roads in the West Bank are festooned with posters of candidates promising everything from cleaner streets to better transport, jobs and free Wi-Fi, Reuters reports.

However, notably absent are slogans and messages calling for the liberation of Palestinian Authority areas from Israeli occupation.