Hamas and Fatah face off in Palestinian vote
Updated: 2006-01-26 06:05
Hamas made a stronger-than-expected showing in the
Palestinians' first parliamentary election in a decade Wednesday, and the ruling
Fatah Party may have to include the Islamic militants in a coalition government,
according to exit polls.
Supporters of Hamas gesture after polls closed
in a Palestinian election in the West Bank city of Hebron January 25,
2006. Islamic militant group Hamas made a strong showing in the
Palestinian parliamentary election on Wednesday, just a few percentage
points behind the ruling Fatah movement, first projections showed.
The impressive results for Hamas, competing in its first election ever,
reflected popular discontent with Fatah, the secular party that has led the
Palestinian Authority since its creation 12 years ago and has been accused of
widespread corruption and mismanagement.
The election was the Palestinians' first truly competitive vote, and
officials hoped it would help cement democracy in the post- Yasser Arafat era.
But it also gave unprecedented clout to Hamas, which calls for Israel's
destruction and is listed as a terror group by the United States and European
An exit poll by Bir Zeit University in Ramallah showed Fatah winning 63 seats
in the 132-member parliament with 46.4 percent of the vote, and Hamas taking 58
seats with 39.5 percent. Smaller parties received 11 seats, according to the
poll of 8,000 voters in 232 polling stations. The poll had a one-seat margin of
A second survey showed Fatah beating Hamas 42 percent to 35
supporters of the ruling Fatah movement carry their weapons
in the West Bank town of Nablus, January 25,
Before the election, pollsters said the race was too close to call. Hamas
made a stronger showing than the 30 percent that many pollsters expected.
The polls indicated Fatah may need to include some Hamas members in its
ruling coalition because some of the independents were aligned with the
militants. Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas could face problems with Israel and
the United States if he includes Hamas members in his Cabinet.
President Bush told The Wall Street Journal in an interview Wednesday that
the United States will not deal with Hamas until it renounces its position
calling for the destruction of Israel.
"A political party, in order to be viable, is one that professes peace, in my
judgment, in order that it will keep the peace," Bush said.
"And so you're getting a sense of how I'm going to deal with Hamas if they
end up in positions of responsibility. And the answer is: not until you renounce
your desire to destroy Israel will we deal with you."
In Gaza City, Fatah loyalists fired rifles out of car windows, sounded their
horns and waved the yellow flag of their movement as they drove around the
streets after getting word of the exit polls.
"Even though this is not
the official result, we have to celebrate," said 22-year-old Omar Abdel Al
Raouf, waving an assault rifle from his car window. "The winner is the