Friday, December 24, 2004

Palestinians Complain of "Two Palestines"

JERICHO, West Bank, Dec. 23 - Palestinians in 26 West Bank towns and villages voted Thursday in orderly municipal elections, the first since 1976 and a prelude to a presidential vote in just over two weeks.
The turnout was large and the voting went smoothly, with no major glitches or security problems reported.
The Fatah movement, founded by Yasir Arafat and the dominant force in Palestinian politics for decades, was expected to make the strongest showing. However, it faces a challenge from Hamas, the militant Islamic group, which is taking part in elections for the first time.
Hamas made a strong showing in local Palestinian elections in 26 communities across the West Bank on Thursday, according to preliminary elections results. Official results will be announced Saturday night.
This is the first time the Islamic faction has competed in the polls.
Some 150,000 eligible voters choose among more than 800 candidates in the election. Sixteen percent of the 360 local council seats were reserved for women.
According to the preliminary results, the ruling Fatah movement won a majority in 14 towns, while Hamas took control in nine communities. In two, a joint Hamas-Fatah slate won. The outcome of the vote in one community, Ya'bed, was not immediately available.
However, Hamas officials said they had won a majority in at least 17 local councils, based on reports from their election observers.
Many Palestinian analysts see this divide as a possible rift in Palestinian society. "What you are seeing here is not a mere political swing, but a deep ideological divide." said Rahim Sajib, a senior political analyst from the Center for Arab Studies. "The two parties stand for polar ideologies... This is in effect, a fundamental socio-political split."
Many locals also complain of the fierce rivalries between the two groups. "Its like there are the red towns and the blue ones." Says local olive grower Mahmud Abu Zuhri. "If Hamas continues to win these elections, I am thinking about returning to Jordan!"
While many others feel that this sentiment is rash, Hamas does explain that they are serious about their agenda. "We are a religio-political party, we won't make any bones about that." Salim Id, Hamas spokesman says "We believe in Islamic and family values and we will not let these secular jahiliah strong arm local politics and morals."
While Fatah struggles to maintain a majority under Hamas pressure, they are also considering changing their message. With an aging leader and liberal values, many in the Fatah party question their ability to compete in 2008. "Maybe these Muhamed-freaks have something going?" queries a senior Fatah spokesman. "We might need to abandon some of our more liberal policies to conform to a increasingly conservative nation. The important thing is not to alienate voters. If they want to see the destruction of Israel, who are we to stand in their way?"

(I borrowed text from here and here)

No comments: