Zahar insists Hamas wouldn't change charter calling for Israel's destruction.
By ASSOCIATED PRESS, JPOST STAFF
"These elections are a decisive step towards Palestinian independence," Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas declared on Wednesday.
"We are so happy with this election festival," he said after casting his vote in Ramallah. "So far, it's going very well and we hope it will keep going well until the end without any troubles."
The elections for the legislative council caused a great stir in the Palestinian political system, with different candidates already outlining their plans for "the day after."
After casting his vote, Abbas said he was ready to resume peace talks with Israel, even if Hamas joins his government. "We are partners with the Israelis. They don't have the right to choose their partner. But if they are seeking a Palestinian partner, this partner exists," he said.
He remained adamant in supporting the Oslo Accords, going so far as threatening to quit his post if a parliament would be elected that would cancel the Israeli-Palestinian agreement.
Fatah candidate in Hebron, Jibril Rajoub, announced that if his party wins they would call upon all the other factions to join them in a national unity government.
While Abbas called upon Palestinian organizations such as Hamas and Fatah to disarm, Hamas leader Ismail Haniya asserted that his movement would retain its arms after the elections.
Hamas leader in Gaza, Mahmoud Zahar, insisted that the terrorist group would not change a single word of its charter, including the clause calling for Israel's destruction. He added that turning the movement into a political party did not prevent them from "playing the resistance game."
These statements came just two days after Zahar declared that he did not exclude negotiations with Israel through a third party.
Recent polls have predicted that Fatah would win the elections by a mere seven percent over Hamas - that margin had been steadily decreasing in recent months.
Trying to present a democratic image, Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei declared that the Fatah was ready to support Hamas if it would win. "I hope that the minority will accept the decisions of the majority," Qurei said after voting.
"If Hamas wins, they will win and we will stand behind them. This is democracy and we accept the results of the elections," he said.
Abu Adham, spokesman for the Aksa Martyrs Brigades, Fatah's armed wing, said his men would wear civilian clothes and bear no arms near and inside the polling stations.
"We will disown anyone who tries to disrupt the elections," he said, adding "This is an historic day for the Palestinian people."
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