Analysis / Hamas gains worry Fatah

Posted in Israel / Palestine | 08-May-05 | Author: Danny Rubinstein | Source: Ha'aretz

Palestinian militants from Hamas hold their weapons during a celebration rally, May 6, 2005.
Results of the second set of municipal elections in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip last Thursday, which show a rise in Hamas support, have Fatah seeking ways of postponing the elections for the legislative council (the parliament), set for July 17.

In response, Fatah activists are expected to delay the passage of the Palestinian election bill, making the July balloting impossible. A number of senior PA figures said yesterday that parliamentary elections should be delayed until after the Israeli withdrawal.

The final results of the elections are to be announced this morning. The counting of the ballots, which was completed yesterday, show a majority for Fatah, but Fatah spokesmen are saying the voting meant one step forward for Fatah, and three for Hamas.

The Fatah majority is between 55 and 60 percent, with 30 to 35 percent to Hamas. But considering that it is a relatively young and inexperienced political movement, the results can be seen as an achievement for Hamas.

The first round of elections, which took place three months ago, also showed impressive gains for Hamas.

In the Gaza Strip, Hamas took a majority in three of the seven big cities, as well as in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, in the Bureij refugee camp in the central Strip, and in Beit Lahia in the north.

Hamas spokesmen say their victory is even greater than it appears, because most independent candidates, about 10 percent of the total, are affiliated with Hamas but were afraid to be identified as such for fear Israel would hit them.

Additionally, in Christian communities in the West Bank, Palestinian law reserves places on city councils for Christians, and in some locales Hamas candidates did not even stand for election.

Fatah members, mainly from the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, discounted results, mainly in Rafah and Bureij, and staged demonstrations citing alleged election fraud on the part of Hamas.