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Hamas bloc wins over student vote in Birzeit University elections

April 28, 2016 10:03 A.M. (Updated: May 3, 2016 1:12 P.M.)
MaanImages/Alex Shams, File
RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- A student bloc of the Hamas movement on Wednesday came out on top in the closely-followed elections at Birzeit University in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah.

Following debates between factions vying for the student vote, the pro-Hamas al-Wafaa Islamic bloc claimed victory after gaining 25 seats, with the Yasser Arafat bloc of the Fatah movement trailing behind with 21 seats.

The bloc representing Leftist movement Palestinian Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) for its part came out with five seats, while other leftist parties including the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Palestinian People’s Party did not receive enough votes to garner a seat.

Voter turnout was reported as 76 percent of the student body,

The Islamic bloc last year won elections for the first time since 2007 at the historically staunchly pro-Fatah campus, taking observers by surprise.

As this year marked ten years since the last national elections, university elections are seen as important indicators of public opinion by political commentators in Palestine and Birzeit is considered to be the most important campus in the yearly political contests.

The Hamas movement congratulated the Islamic bloc for its win at Birzeit and said the victory was an indicator that the movement still had strong sway among the Palestinian public.

The Gaza-based movement said the win came despite efforts by both the Israeli authorities and Palestinian Authority to suppress the Hamas vote, citing the detention of Student Council President Saif al-Islam Daghlas and other students.

Human Rights Watch last year slammed the PA for detaining Palestinian university students across the West Bank after elections “for no apparent reason other than their connection to Hamas or their opinions.”

Hamas’ victory over Fatah comes as the rival factions have shown continued failure to follow through with attempts to form a unity government since April 2014, after being on cold terms since 2006 when Hamas won the Palestinian legislative elections.

In the following year, violent clashes erupted between Fatah and Hamas, leaving Hamas in control of Gaza and Fatah in control of the occupied West Bank.

Factional disputes between Palestinian factions have been on the rise since a wave of unrest erupted across the occupied Palestinian territory in October.

Hamas and PFLP in particular have lambasted the PA’s ongoing security coordination with Israel as an alleged attempt to quash resistance against the Israeli occupation, while Hamas last summer accused the PA of attempting to eradicate the movement from the West Bank.

Elections haven’t been held in the occupied Palestinian territory for ten years and the public has grown increasingly disillusioned with Palestinian political parties.

Frustration has grown among the youth in particular, with growing numbers showing preference for participating in demonstrations or resistance that are not affiliated with any political party.

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