No one in the leaderships of Hamas or Fatah will likely shed a tear over the decision Thursday of the Palestinian High Court of Justice (the equivalent of the Supreme Court) to postpone local elections in the West Bank and Gaza. These were due to take place on October 8; the court said it would reconsider the issue in a few months’ time.

Both sides had something to lose. But, despite all the warnings in Israel that Hamas’s takeover of the West Bank was imminent, Hamas had more at stake if the elections were to proceed as planned.

This is because, at most, Hamas was expected to register nice gains in the West Bank. Fatah was likely to take the majority of seats in the local councils (3,818 in total across the West Bank and Gaza) while Hamas was expected to win in major cities like Hebron, Tulkarem and Nablus, through a candidate rotation agreement with Fatah. Victory in those areas would allow Hamas to create the appearance of a Fatah defeat — with the likely cooperation of the Israeli media, of course.

The biggest risk for Hamas was actually in the Gaza Strip, where a worrying — bordering on frightening — picture was emerging.

In at least four major cities in the enclave — Gaza City, Rafah, Khan Younis and Deir al-Balah — there was the impression that Fatah’s electoral lists were more popular, for a number of reasons: First, the Fatah lists in those areas were more impressive; second, as one Gazan analyst told The Times of Israel, “If during the 2006 elections [won by Hamas] the people demanded revenge against Fatah, this time the residents of the Strip are looking to settle the score with Hamas.” This is in light of the current deteriorating economic situation in the Strip and the feeling that Hamas is treating the residents with disdain. The organization’s election campaign was a veritable slap in the face for Gazans.

“For years we have suffered here from the difficult situation, [and] they run a campaign that says, ‘Gaza is more beautiful’ under Hamas. They tried to claim the Gaza Strip is now better than ever. Obviously, people are angry at them,” he said.

Other analysts spoke of a tight and difficult race between the Hamas and Fatah lists and the decisions in Gaza’s courts (operated by Hamas) to disqualify their rivals’ lists one after another, sometimes for very strange reasons. This happened in places like Umm Zahara, Beit Hanoun, Nuseirat and Khan Younis.

Just this morning, one Fatah man in the West Bank told The Times of Israel: “They’re afraid.”

And then came the decision from the West Bank court to suspend the elections. There will obviously be those who say the decision stems from the fear of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah party. That possibility cannot be discounted. But it should be noted that, over the past few months, there was no small amount of pressure on the PA president to cancel the elections altogether — a call he had rejected repeatedly.

Does it make sense that now, when it has emerged that he has a realistic prospect of a true breakthrough in the West Bank and even Gaza, he rushed to pressure the court to cancel the election? Anything is possible in the Middle East, it seems.