"We have informed the president that due to technical reasons we are not able to hold elections."

Failed pact

Abbas had ordered for the polls to be held on January 24 after a reconciliation pact between his Fatah faction and the Hamas failed to materialise.

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In response to the Election Commission announcement, Abbas's spokesman said: "The ban Hamas imposed on the Elections Commission from entering Gaza to undertake the necessary steps to carry out elections is evidence that Hamas does not value the unity of the homeland nor national reconciliation.

"In light of this development, President Mahmoud Abbas will take the necessary decision, after consulting with the [Palestinian] institutions and the basic law," he said.

Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman, said: "The Electoral Commission's recommendation to postpone the upcomming January elections was expected because we lack the right conditions.

"This displays the correct stance that the Hamas movement took by not supporting any election before we reach any solution on national reconciliation.

"Holding an election during a political separation will only increase the separation."

'Unconstitutional'

The election decree stipulated that the polls must be held in the West Bank, including occupied East Jerusalem, and also in Gaza.

But Hamas dubbed the president's decree as unconstitutional because his own mandate had run out in January.

If the polls are not delayed, candidates would have to submit nominations by November 14.

Abbas has already said that he will not run for the presidency again, citing a lack of progress in peace talks with Israel.

Nour Odeh, Al Jazeera's correspondent in the occupied West Bank, said: "Abbas is in a very tough position, but I don't know if it will reflect on him personally. Everyone in the nation knows that this was not going to be easy.

"The hope of course was that the Palestinian factions would sign the Egyptian-brokered reconciliation deal and then there would be no problem."

There is deep hostility between Fatah, that effectively rules the occupied West Bank, and Hamas, which took full control of Gaza after forcing out security forces loyal to Abbas in 2007.