Hamas scores at the ballot box in challenge to Fatah

Hamas declared itself a significant political force after West Bank local election results were announced yesterday. It was the first time the Islamic movement, branded a terrorist organisation by Britain and other Western governments, had contested any local or national election.

Both Hamas and the late Yasser Arafat's Fatah party claimed victory. Hanan Yousef, a West Bank Hamas leader, said: "This election has proved that we have a strong presence here. This means the Hamas programme of resistance has many supporters."

It was not always easy to identify the affiliation of the 306 candidates elected in 25 villages and the town of Jericho. Many voters cast their ballots on clan or tribal, rather than party, lines. Others judged candidates on their ability to deliver.

In Shiyoukh, a village in the Hebron hills, Mohammed Halayka, 31, a Hamas voter, insisted: "Hamas is not a terrorist organisation. Hamas has experience in providing services."

Samira Oweidat, 34, a housewife, supported candidates from four different lists. "The most important thing for me," she said, "is to have a medical centre for our children. I have chosen people I think could get it for us."

Fatah claimed 66 per cent of the 144,000 votes cast last Thursday, an 81 per cent turnout. Hamas claimed, however, to control 12 councils with its allies. Both agreed that the elections were fair.

These were the first Palestinian local elections since 1976, when West Bank towns went to the polls, and the first in the villages since the beginning of the Israeli occupation 37 years ago.

"Fatah counted every independent as one of its members," said Hani al-Masri, a Palestinian political analyst. "Hamas counted every religious candidate as one of its members."

Israeli observers estimated that Hamas won up to one third of the votes. That was far higher than opinion polls had indicated. Fatah managers fear that Hamas will fair even better in its Gaza power base, where local elections are scheduled in late January.

Hamas is boycotting presidential elections, due on 9 January, but its local government success could limit the freedom of manoeuvre of Mahmoud Abbas, the Fatah front-runner. Mr Abbas launched his campaign on Saturday with a tough speech in which he nonetheless promised to "settle the conflict by means of negotiations".

The Israeli cabinet yesterday endorsed procedures agreed with the Palestinian Authority for the presidential poll. Ariel Sharon, the Prime Minister, said: "It should be clear to the entire world that Israel made possible free, fair and effective elections."

Arab residents of East Jerusalem will be able to vote at post offices, as they did in the 1996 election. Israeli troops will gradually withdraw from Palestinian cities and allow armed Palestinian police to secure polling stations. Mr Abbas and other candidates will be free to move around and campaign.

Suggested Topics
News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
musicHunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original  manuscripts
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
New Articles
i100
Life and Style
lifeAiming to show breasts in a non-sexual way for cancer awareness
New Articles
i100... while following the referendum
New Articles
i100... with this review
Voices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special
tvNick Frost, Natalie Gumede and Michael Troughton step up
Arts and Entertainment
Matthew Beard, Ben Schnetzer, Douglas Booth and Jack Farthing in ‘The Riot Club’
filmReview: Sheer nastiness of Riot Club takes you aback
Arts and Entertainment
tvBut something’s not quite right
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Research Manager - Quantitative/Qualitative

£32000 - £42000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week