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Hamas Wins Gaza Local Elections, US Unimpressed - Al-Shobaki: Municipal Polls Done in 6 Months, 2nd Stage April 28 (Palestine Media Center- (PMC) 01/29/05)Source: http://www.palestine-pmc.com/details.asp?cat=1&id=783 ARAB PRESS ARAB PRESS Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
Hamas swept seven out of ten municipalities, winning 75 of the 118 council seats, with 20 seats going for women, on Thursday in a voter turnout that topped 85 percent in the first-ever local elections in the Gaza Strip.

Meanwhile, the United States downplayed Hamas electoral victory and confirmed that it will continue to deal with the Islamic movement as a “terrorist” organization.

Palestine National Authority (PNA) Local Government Minister Jamal al- Shobaki announced that 414 candidates contested 118 seats. 60,480 people representing 72 percent of 83,700 eligible voters took part in the elections, he said.

The ruling Fatah movement won 26 seats, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) one, clan-affiliated Fatah supporters four and the rest of the seats went for “independents.”

Hamas ran in nine of the towns, under the slogan “Change and Reform.”

Thursday’s vote was the first-ever municipal election in the coastal Gaza Strip.

Al-Shobaki told a press conference in Gaza city that the Higher Commission for Local Elections decided to complete the municipal elections within six months instead of one year, as was previously announced.

A list of names of the constituencies that will go to polls in the second stage on April 28 will be submitted to the Council of Ministers (cabinet) for approval, and will constitute 50 percent of the remaining municipalities.

The third stage of the local elections will be held three months later, he said.

Thousands of Hamas supporters celebrated their electoral victory in the streets beneath the green flags of the Islamic movement Friday.

“Hamas’s victory proves Islam is the solution,” blared a slogan from loudspeakers.

“Our people have a consensus on the choice of jihad and resistance and the election has underscored that concept,” Hamas spokesman Mushir al-Masri told reporters.

He said the victory was a vindication for the group’s resistance strategy.

“This is a big victory for the resistance,” said al Masri. “It seems that resistance and Qassam (rockets) that used to be fired ... have won,” he said.

The Gaza voting follows the December 23 local elections in 26 West Bank towns and villages, and a January 9 presidential election in which PLO Chairman Mahmoud Abbas was elected to succeed Yaser Arafat as the PNA President after Arafat’s death on November 11.

US Unimpressed

In the local elections in the West Bank, Hamas made a strong showing and took control of several towns away from Fatah.

However, the United States said Friday it continues to consider the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) as a “terrorist organization,” the State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said in Washington.

The State Department said the group has nothing constructive to bring to the political process as long as it maintains “a course of violence.”

Boucher pointedly did not welcome the election outcome, praising instead the peaceful conduct of the polling and what he said was excellent cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian security officials in facilitating free movement for voters.

“Certainly we have not changed our view of Hamas as an organization. We think it needs to be put out of the terrorism business. And that remains very clear for us. But as I said, I think the test right now for the Palestinians, if they want to achieve a Palestinian state, if they want to achieve their national aspirations, is to see whether they will move forward and end the violence, take active steps to end the violence, and create the institutions that can support a state,” Boucher said.

“Winning an election doesn´t mean you stop your violence. You stop your violence because you ban violence as a goal. And that has to be the criteria of judging any particular organization or individual,” he added, according to the official Voice of America radio. (© PMC 2005 01/29/05)

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