Officials: Hamas wins Palestinian election
Updated: 2006-01-26 20:46
One defeated Fatah candidate, Nabil Amr, said he did not expect his party to
accept a junior position in a Hamas-led government. "I don't think Fatah can
participate in a lower position," said Amr.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas shows his
marked finger after casting his vote at Palestinian Authority headquarters
in the West Bank city of Ramallah January 25, 2006.
The election marked the first time Hamas has contested a legislative vote,
and leading the Cabinet could give it significant powers. The Cabinet holds wide
control over security forces, finance and other government functions, though
Abbas has retained power mainly through tradition and political leverage.
Abbas, in his role as leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization, would
still remain in charge of negotiations with Israel.
Palestinian election officials confirmed early Thursday that Hamas had won a
large majority of the seats up for grabs in electoral districts in the West Bank
Half the seats were chosen on a national list and the other half by
districts. While the national voting appeared to be close, election officials
said Hamas had won a large majority in the district races. Hamas apparently took
advantage of divisions in Fatah; the long-ruling party fielded multiple
candidates in many districts, allowing the Islamic group to capitalize.
Initial exit polls had forecast a slight edge for Fatah, with Hamas coming in
a strong second. The polls predicted that neither party would have a majority
and would have to rely on smaller parties to form a coalition.
However, on Thursday morning, Hamas officials said the group had won up to 75
seats ¡ª giving it a solid majority in the 132-member parliament.
Officials in Fatah conceded that Hamas had won about 70 seats. They spoke on
condition of anonymity because counting in some districts was continuing.
Palestinian pollsters were at a loss to explain the discrepancy between the
exit polls. Many voters said they had been afraid to admit to pollsters they had
supported Hamas, fearing retribution.
Palestinian legislator Hanan Ashrawi, who apparently was re-elected on a
moderate platform, said the Hamas victory was a dramatic turning point. She said
she is concerned the militants will now impose their fundamentalist social
agenda and lead the Palestinians into international isolation.
She said Fatah's corruption, Israel's tough measures and international
indifference to the plight of the Palestinians were to blame for Hamas' strong
Washington miscalculated in pushing for the vote, as part of its
pro-democracy campaign in the Arab world, she said. "The Americans insisted on
having the election now, so they have to respect the results of the election, as
we all do," she said.
Israel has repeatedly asked Abbas to force Hamas and other militant groups to
disarm but Abbas has refused, warning such an act could cause civil war. Hamas
has committed dozens of suicide bombings against Israel.
Turnout was heavy, with nearly 78 percent of 1.3 million eligible voters
casting ballots. Polling stations were heavily guarded, and there were no
reports of major violence.
International observers, including former President Carter, reported no major
problems with fraud.