Palestinians Rafah 298.8.
(photo credit: AP)
A Hamas-affiliated list has scored a major victory in elections for the Palestinian Teachers Union in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in yet another indication that the Islamic movement's status has not been affected by the international boycott of the Hamas-led government.
Results showed that the Teacher's List, a Hamas-dominated list which also includes independents, won 75% of the vote.
At least 90% of the teachers in the Gaza Strip voted for the list as opposed to 65% in the West Bank, according to the results that were published over the weekend.
Turnout was relatively high in both the West Bank and Gaza Strip - over 62%. Hamas made a strong showing especially in the northern West Bank, a place that has traditionally been known as a stronghold for the rival secular Fatah party.
In Jenin, Hamas received 61% of the votes, while in Kalkilya it got 57%.
Hamas officials accused the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority security forces of trying to hamper the voting process by assaulting teachers and polling stations in the West Bank.
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said the Hamas victory was a "clear and practical response to all those who have been trying to defame and discredit Hamas." He described the results as a "severe blow" to Hamas's rivals and a "vote in support of Hamas's policy."
Pointing out that the Hamas-affiliated list had won all seats of the Palestinian Teachers Union, Barhoum said the victory was the latest in a series of similar achievements made by Hamas in elections for the engineers, accountants and nurses unions.
Fatah leaders said they would not accept the results of the elections because the Palestinian Teachers Union was an illegal body belonging to Hamas. They said the only official body representing the teachers is the General Union of Palestinian Teachers, which is controlled by Fatah members.
"Hamas has violated the law by holding elections for an illegal body," a senior Fatah official in Ramallah told The Jerusalem Post. "The Palestinian High Court has ruled that this is an illegal body, but Hamas chose to ignore the ruling and now wants to create new facts on the ground." The official claimed that the Hamas "victory" was part of a well-planned scheme by the Islamic movement to take control over various institutions by force. "Hamas has already used weapons to take control over sports clubs and public institutions and lands," he added. "This is in addition to the kidnappings, killings and seizure of private property by Hamas members."
Jamil Shehadeh, secretary-general of the General Union of Palestinian Teachers, accused Hamas of misleading the teachers. "Hamas is lying," he said. "There were no elections in the West Bank for their union. They are trying to mislead the teachers."