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article imageHamas wins student election in West Bank university

By Ken Hanly     Apr 29, 2015 in Politics
Hebron - The results of student council elections at West Bank universities showed that Hamas has gained popularity at the expense of the Palestine Authority.
In an April 21 election at the Palestine Polytechnic University in Hebron, the Islamic Bloc, the student arm of Hamas, tied with the Fatah Youth Movement, with each group winning 15 seats. This was a surprise but even more surprising were the results announced on April 22 from Birzeit University, showing that the Islamic Bloc won over Fatah by 26 seats to 19. Turnout at Birzeit was 77 percent, with the Hamas-aligned group receiving 3,400 votes and the Fatah-aligned group 2,545. In last year’s vote, the Fatah bloc won 23 seats while the Islamic bloc received 20, according to a school press release. The university president, Khalil Hindi, claimed the elections took place in a democratic and peaceful atmosphere. Birzeit, long a center of student activism, is considered the best university in the West Bank.
Abdul Rahman Hamdan, head of the Islamic Bloc said: “This victory is proof that Palestinians support the resistance, as it is the only way to obtain our rights and refuse the PA’s project, which is based on negotiations. Although the bloc was fiercely attacked by the Israeli occupation and the PA, we won. I expect the campaign to escalate in the coming phase.” Khaled Meshaal, who heads Hamas' political bureau said that his group was ready for legislative and presidential elections. Youssef Rizqa, a former information minister in the Hamas government said:“The reasons behind the victory of Hamas and the defeat of Fatah lie beyond university and stem from [President Mahmoud] Abbas’ stance vis-a-vis the resistance and the recent war on Gaza, the paralysis of the consensus government and the denial of the reconciliation.”
The university elections are taken as a barometer of trends in Palestinian politics. Birzeit University is liberal and Fatah was not expected to lose. Fatah was quite upset at a defeat on its own territory even if just in a student election. A Palestinian official told Al Monitor that Abbas "held a meeting with Fatah cadres in Birzeit in the past few days and scolded them for their huge loss facing Hamas supporters, knowing that they were offered financial allocations and security facilities allowing them to win."
The reconciliation projects between Hamas and Fatah apparently are not progressing. Negotiations with Israel are halted. There are internal disputes within the Palestinian Authority as well. The Palestinian Authority further alienates many Palestinians by cracking down on Hamas. A few days after the Hamas' student election victory, the Palestinian security apparatus arrested Islamic Bloc cadres. Fathi Qarawi, a member of Hamas' Legislative Council claimed: “Arresting and pursuing students reveals the true face of the PA. If it had known the bloc would win the elections, it would have used weapons to impede this victory. The PA won’t blink before oppressing any other attempt for Hamas to win, given its repeated losses.”
Back in September the two rival Palestinian groups agreed to a unity government for Gaza that would be headed by PA president Mahmoud Abbas. However, the liberal Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports that the humanitarian conditions in the strip are very poor and funding very limited: That funding is conditioned on the auspices of the Palestinian Authority, which is not really functioning in the Gaza Strip. The last visit of a number of PA ministers to Gaza two weeks ago ended after about 24 hours, showing that the option of PA rule in the Strip in the near future is not realistic.
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