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(photo credit: AP [file])
Fatah trounced Hamas Saturday in student council elections for the distance-learning al-Quds Open University. The elections were held to choose separate councils in West Bank towns and cities.
Election officials said that in Nablus and Ramallah, Fatah candidates beat Hamas rivals for the 21-member student councils by 12 to eight in each case. The leftist terror-supporting Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine won one seat in each council.
Fatah, which lost January parliamentary elections to Hamas, also won in Bethlehem, Kalkilya, Tulkarm and other West Bank towns, the officials said. Final results for the Hamas stronghold Hebron were not yet available. No date has been set for elections in the Gaza Strip.
Hamas' landslide parliamentary victory was widely attributed to public disgust at corruption in Fatah. Fatah official Mahmoud Abu Rob, a professor at An-Najah University in Nablus, said the party has learned its lesson and Saturday's vote is a bellwether for the future.
"We learned from the mistakes of the past and made a real house-cleaning and we won by at least 55 to 60 percent," he told The Associated Press. "Fatah is the largest and oldest Palestinian organization and it will win in future elections."
Following the announcement of the results, Fatah supporters took to the streets in Nablus city center and other towns, honking car horns and in some cases firing into the air in celebration. Hamas backers made no attempt to intervene.
Adnan Asfour, a top Hamas official in Nablus, said the Fatah students won fairly and congratulated them on their victory. He said, however, that al-Quds was traditionally the home of Fatah supporters and Hamas had made significant inroads.
"This is democracy, and we think that the elections were fair and we wish them good luck," he said. "Six years ago, we had no votes in this university, now we have progressed to 30 percent."