Hamas wins Birzeit University student council elections

The Hamas-affiliated Islamic bloc won 28 seats of the council, while the Martyr Yasser Arafat Bloc, which belongs to the ruling Fatah faction, got only 18 seats.

 Palestinian students supporting Hamas take part in a rally during an election campaign for the student council at the Birzeit University in the West Bank city of Ramallah April 26, 2016.  (photo credit: MOHAMAD TOROKMAN/REUTERS)
Palestinian students supporting Hamas take part in a rally during an election campaign for the student council at the Birzeit University in the West Bank city of Ramallah April 26, 2016.
(photo credit: MOHAMAD TOROKMAN/REUTERS)

Hamas scored a landslide victory in elections Wednesday for the student council at Birzeit University in the West Bank.

The Hamas-affiliated Islamic bloc won 28 seats on the council, while the Martyr Yasser Arafat Bloc, associated with the ruling Fatah faction, got only 18 seats.

This is not the first time Hamas has won elections at the university, located north of Ramallah.

The student council consists of 51 seats.

A list tied to the PLO’s Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) won the remaining five seats. Voter turnout was 78%.

A student supporting Hamas holds a Palestinian flag in a rally during an election campaign for the student council at the Birzeit University in the West Bank city of Ramallah April 26, 2016 (credit: MOHAMAD TOROKMAN/REUTERS)A student supporting Hamas holds a Palestinian flag in a rally during an election campaign for the student council at the Birzeit University in the West Bank city of Ramallah April 26, 2016 (credit: MOHAMAD TOROKMAN/REUTERS)

The results of the elections came as no surprise amid Hamas’s growing popularity in the West Bank.

On the eve of the vote, Israeli security authorities arrested seven students from the Hamas list, a move that is said to have contributed to the Hamas victory.

Last year, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called off the elections for the parliament and presidency, citing Israel’s alleged refusal to allow the vote to take place in Jerusalem.

But Abbas’s critics argued that he canceled the elections, slated for May and July 2021, because he feared Hamas would win the parliamentary vote as it did in 2006.

The latest Hamas victory came amid rising tensions in the West Bank and east Jerusalem and in the aftermath of a wave of Palestinian terrorist attacks.

“This clear victory is another confirmation that the Palestinians support the option of resistance,” Hamas said in a statement after the results were announced.

According to the group, the results are also a sign of support for the role Hamas played in “defending” the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, reference to the violent clashes that took place on the Temple Mount before and during the holy Muslim month of Ramadan.

Thousands of Muslim worshipers raised Hamas flags and banners and chanted slogans in support of the group’s leaders during the prayers at the Aqsa Mosque compound.

Senior Hamas official Zaher Jabareen said that the election results reflect the Palestinian will and tell Israel that the Palestinians cannot be defeated.

Jibril Rajoub, Secretary-General of the Fatah central committee, said that his faction was “paying the price for the mistakes committed by the Palestinian Authority.”

Headed by PA President Mahmoud Abbas, Fatah is the largest faction of the PLO and its loyalists hold senior positions in the PA’s civilian and security institutions.

Rajoub, a veteran Fatah official and former PA security chief, said that his faction needs to draw the conclusions from its defeat. He also called for a review of the relations between the PA and Fatah.

After the results were announced on Wednesday evening, Palestinians took to the streets in several areas of the West Bank to celebrate the Hamas victory. In some areas, PA security officers were seen setting up checkpoints and confiscating Hamas banners.