"There is no leadership now, either in the West Bank or Gaza, that can claim legitimacy in any meaningful sense," said Khaled Elgindy at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank.
At the same time, holding general elections in just the West Bank or Gaza was not seen as an option because it would cement the split.
In calling local elections in the West Bank, Fatah hoped to renew voter support, without appearing to harden the rift with Gaza. Abbas praised Saturday's vote as a "good beginning" and said he hoped local elections would be held soon in Gaza and east Jerusalem.
The West Bank voting was one of the few remaining options for Abbas, whose various strategies have run into dead ends.
"They are flailing in all directions," Nathan Brown, an analyst at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said of the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank. "They can't go to the international community for financial support. They can't do (general) elections. They can't do reconciliation. So (they say) let's at least do municipal elections."
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