Hamas Sweeps Gaza Elections in Show of Strength (REUTERS) By Nidal al-Mughrabi GAZA 01/28/05 12:39 PM ET)
Reuters News Service
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GAZA (Reuters) - Hamas swept seven out of 10 councils in the Gaza
Strip´s first local elections, seen as a test of strength between
the Islamic militant group and new President Mahmoud Abbas, final
results showed on Friday.
The Islamists, sworn to Israel´s destruction, had boycotted the Jan.
9 presidential election, won by Abbas on a platform of ending
violence to allow talks with the Jewish state on Palestinian
"Hamas´s victory proves Islam is the solution," blared a slogan from
loudspeakers as thousands of supporters celebrated in the streets
beneath fluttering green Hamas flags.
Abbas has been trying to win a cease-fire from Hamas and other
militants spearheading a 4-year-old revolt to allow the resumption
of talks with Israel and to avoid chaos in Gaza ahead of an Israeli
plan to abandon the occupied territory.
"Our people have a consensus on the choice of jihad and resistance
and the election has underscored that concept," Hamas spokesman
Muhir al-Masri told reporters.
Hamas candidates won 75 of the 118 council seats compared to 39 for
members of Abbas´s Fatah movement and their allies, final figures
from the electoral commission showed.
But while the results were a blow to Fatah, they also raise the
prospect that Hamas will join parliamentary elections in July and
thereby shift closer to the political mainstream.
"The results showed that our people are insisting Hamas take part in
the upcoming ballot," said spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri.
Voter turnout topped 80 percent -- much higher than at the
presidential election for a successor to Yasser Arafat.
Local Government Minister Jamal al-Shobaki, a Fatah member, said the
high turnout showed that "Palestinian people understand that
democracy and elections are the start to the end of occupation."
Hamas, which has killed hundreds of Israelis in suicide bombings,
has won many hearts in Gaza not only for its role in the fighting
but also for its charity work for the needy in the absence of
welfare support from the crumbling Palestinian Authority.
Political analysts say that by taking part in the municipal
elections, Hamas is also demonstrating its claim to a share of power
ahead of Israel´s planned withdrawal of Jewish settlers from Gaza.
Palestinian analyst Hani Habib said that Hamas´s show of power could
make the group more eager to join Abbas´s political agenda,
including a militant truce with Israel, in order to try to boost its
political status among the Palestinians.
"Hamas´s landslide victory will encourage it more because now it
feels stronger and it will (be encouraged) to make difficult
decisions while it is strong," he said. "Hamas will be involved in
(Abbas´s) plan from a position of strength."
Senior Hamas leader Mohammed al-Zahar told reporters in Gaza that
the group would still not accept a cease-fire until Israel agreed to
carry out more of their demands. Israel has already said it would
reduce military raids and assassinations of militant leaders in
response to Abbas´s efforts to end attacks.
Hamas made a strong showing in municipal elections in the West Bank
last month and the group had been expected to do even better in
Gaza, where 1.4 million Palestinians live in often dire poverty. (©
Reuters 2005 01/28/05)
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