Party sweeps 11 out of 13 districts in Nablus, taking 73% of the vote.
By KHALED ABU TOAMEH, AP
According to results published early Friday, Hamas won the Palestinian Authority primaries in Nablus with 73 percent of the vote, marking victory in 11 out of 13 districts.
The Islamic party did well in other local elections, winning 72% of the vote in El-Bireh, a large suburb of Ramallah.
In Ramallah, preliminary results showed a victory for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, while Fatah - running on three separate lists in the city - has taken only some 40% of the vote, Israel Radio reported.
Fatah, the ruling Palestinian party, retained only 13% of the vote in Nablus. In four of five rounds of municipal voting over the past year, Fatah received 35% of council seats, compared to 23% for Hamas. The Islamic group captured some of the Palestinians' largest cities, including Nablus, Qalqiliya and Jenin.
Voting in Hebron, the West Bank's largest city, was postponed until after the parliamentary poll because Fatah leaders feared another Hamas victory would be devastating, a Palestinian official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss internal deliberations.
Thousands of Hamas supporters marched through West Bank and Gaza towns after Friday prayers to celebrate the group's election victory. In the West Bank town of Jenin, where Hamas won eight of 15 seats on the local council according to unofficial results, supporters held up copies of the Quran, the Muslim holy book, and chanted: "To Jerusalem we march, martyrs by the millions."
On Thursday, efforts were still underway to persuade jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti to abandon his decision to run in next month's parliamentary elections at the head of a new list.
Barghouti, who is serving five life terms in Israel for his role in terror attacks, dropped an electoral bombshell late Wednesday night when he announced, through his wife, Fadwa, that he would contest the vote at the head of a new list called al-Mustaqbal (The Future(
Barghouti's decision is also seen by many Palestinians as an attempt to stage a bloodless coup against the representatives of the old guard, including Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and other top Fatah officials.
Hamas' schools, clinics and other welfare programs - coupled with its fierce resistance to Israel - have won it grass-roots support among Palestinians fed up with Fatah's corruption and its inability to bring order to the lawless streets of the West Bank and Gaza.
However, some Palestinians, like Hassan Mubarakeh, a 33-year-old vendor in Nablus, were wary of putting the Islamic group in charge of the Palestinian Authority. He said he voted for Hamas in the local election, but ruled out voting for Hamas for parliament "because they mix religion with politics."