Hamas unveils own list of candidates for Palestinian elections

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Hamas unveiled on Monday its list of candidates for Palestinian elections, ending speculation over a joint list between the Islamist movement ruling Gaza and the secular Fatah that runs the West Bank.

Legislative polls have been called for May 22 and a presidential vote on July 31, the first Palestinian elections in 15 years.

Hamas won a surprise victory in 2006 but the result was not recognized by Fatah's leader, president Mahmud Abbas, intensifying divisions.

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Hamas took power in the Gaza Strip in a week of bloody clashes in 2007, while Fatah has retained control in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

The rival movements have jointly agreed to hold elections, voicing hope the process would foster unity and restore international confidence in the Palestinian political system.

"We hope these elections will offer a path to end the division," Hamas official Khalil al-Haya said as the Islamists submitted their list of candidates in Gaza City.

He acknowledged there had been discussions on forging a unified list with Fatah but the prospect was "difficult and now out of reach".

Senior Fatah official Jibril Rajoub said on Saturday that the movement was committed to running independently.

"Fatah will enter this electoral fight alone and we have not sought to present a common list," he said.

Haya said the Hamas list included "a dozen" women, in the latest step by the Islamists towards broader female participation in its political wing.

Palestinians factions have until midnight Wednesday to submit names of candidates for the 132-member Palestinian Legislative Council.

Officials with the electoral commission said 15 factions had submitted lists as of Monday. Five had been approved, while the rest were being examined.

The approved lists are to be unveiled on April 6.

Mohammed Dahlan, who is living in exile in the UAE and has accused Abbas of seeking to silence dissent to stay in power, on Monday submitted his "List of the Future".

Dahlan had been the Palestinian Authority's security chief in Gaza before falling out with the president.

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