January 28, 2005


Hamas Wins Local Palestinian Elections in Gaza (Sonja Pace, 28 January 2005, VOA News)

Hamas was expected to do well, since it has broad popular support in Gaza. But Palestinian political pollster Professor Nader Sa'id of Birzeit University says the outcome also reflects a strong protest vote against the mainstream Fatah faction of President Mahmoud Abbas.

"At the same time, it's a protest against the political situation, where nothing on the ground is actually changing," he said. "All of that with the economic situation, where you have about 80 percent poverty rate - so you are expecting that people will vote against the status quo."

Many Palestinians see in Hamas an alternative to the often corruption-riddled political establishment. While Israel and the United States have labeled it a terrorist organization, many Palestinians also rely on Hamas for its welfare programs, schools and clinics.

Until recently, the radical Islamic group refused to take part in the political process. But Professor Sa'id says that has now changed.

"Hamas has accepted to be part of the political system - to play within the rules of the game," he said.

Professor Sa'id says the move is significant, since Hamas can no longer play the role of outsider, and will, instead, have to answer to an electorate. That, he says, could make the group more politically moderate.

Nothing made Yasir Arafat more craven than his fear of being held accountable for governing a Palestinian state and thus his refusal to accept statehood when it when offered.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 28, 2005 12:36 PM
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