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Hamas Victory: What happened and what should be done?


(Second article in a planned series)
Evening of 25/1/2006
Updated 27/1/2006
The preliminary official results of Palestinian elections indicate that Hamas got 45% (30 seats) of the votes for the national lists, while the other five lists won the other 55% (41% to Fatah with 27 seats, 4.5% to PFLP list with 3 seats, and 3% to each of the Independent Palestine list, Third Path list, and the Alternative list, with 2 seats for each one of them. The PLC is composed of 132 seats: 66 elected in national lists and the other 66 elected in districts.

Hamas got 45% of the delegates in the national list. However, together with its allies it got 60.6% of the seats of the PLC (80 seats out of 132 seats: 76 to Hamas and 4 for its independent allies). This was due to results of the district elections, which gave Fatah only 16 seats while should have gotten at least 27 seats, mirroring what they got in the national list. Allied lists also got less votes than they would get if the joined forces. The main reason for Fatah having less representatives in the districts was that Fatah candidates ran against each other. This resulted in more power to Hamas in the districts. Therefore Hamas got 16 seats more, and Fatah and its allies got 16 seats less in the districts. If Fatah had run united in the districts, they would have gotten perhaps 27 seats in the national lists plus 27 in the districts, totaling 54 seats, while Hamas would have gotten 76-16 = 60 seats. In that case, it would still have been possible for Fatah to compose a weak government by allying with some of the other, smaller, lists and the independents.

One can add that 22.4% of the Palestinian people did not vote (the turnout was 77.6%). These include four categories: Those who support Islamic Jihad who boycotted the elections, a group of liberals who did not find a democratic- liberal list to vote for among those running, and a group of average citizens who do not believe either in elections, or in the possibility of democratic transformation under occupation.

The conclusion to be reached from the above is very important: 55% of the voters are not Hamas supporters. Moreover, adding to them something like 15% who are not supportive of Islamic Jihad, would give a bigger majority who are not supportive of Hamas. This conclusion is compatible with the results of various public opinion polls over the last five years showing a constant Palestine majority of 70% who support peace with Israel.

Additional conclusions

We can draw some other very significant conclusions from the results. The results of the national list (30 to Hamas and 27 to Fatah) shows that there is a slight majority among the voters, (and not among the Palestinian people because there are 22.4% who did not vote) supportive of the Hamas political line over the Fatah one. On the other hand all the other lists got 55% percent in the national list, which means that the majority do not support the Hamas political line. This is very important to note beyond the sense of the shock witnessed among different groups.

On the other hand, Hamas got more representation in the districts: about 50 seats with its allies, which means about 20 seats more than their real power, which is shown in the results of the national list elections. This was a punishment of Fatah as responsible for chaos, disorder, corruption, clientalism, nepotism... etc, and it was also a punishment of Fatah, and the other PLO factions for their fragmentation.

The above reasoning indicates that the results of the elections are not only a punishment of Fatah and PLO factions, as claimed by one opinion in Palestinian society. Nor was the vote only a vote for the Hamas political line against the PLO one as Hamas claimed. Rather, the results indicate that the reality is between these two trends of thought.

What to expect in the next few years?
In brief, the following can be said, while a more in-depth analysis will follow in future articles:

  • Hamas will move gradually toward centrist politics, this move will be difficult and include many twists and turns, which will be paid for by both peoples.

  • New extremist groups might emerge. Probably Al-Qa'eda will fill the vacuum created by the Hamas movement to the center.

  • The spoiler role of Islamic Jihad will continue, and some parts of the Fatah Al-Aqsa Brigades will join them.

  • Fatah will continue to be fragmented between those who will be peaceful opposition to the new PA of Hamas and those who might move to act against Israel. Also internal disputes will rise, including probably internal killing from Fatah of other Fatah leaders(. Al-Aqsa Brigades declared today, that they will end the Tahdiyeh (calm) with Israel and begin attacks against it soon,. Additionally, Fatah already began riots in Khan Yunis, Ramallah, and Bethlehem.

The optimistic scenario is that Fatah will act positively and ally with the small groups and compose together a strong opposition to the new PA. Part of Fatah might choose this approach, but the rest will choose chaos internally and against Israel.

The effect on peace

  • There will be no peace negotiations in the coming few years except if Hamas changes its political line, or if the Hamas agrees to allow the PLO to handle negotiations with Israel.

  • Two unilateral processes will prevail for two years one of Hamas and one of Israel.

  • Israeli policy may range between no move at all to disengaging between Israel and the settlements, while keeping the occupation, motivated by Israel's own demographic and security interest.

  • The Palestinian society will suffer from attempts to impose the role of Sharia in the laws, and in the curricula, also human rights of women and Christians might suffer. On the other hand the 6 Christians representatives in the new PLC will now have a bigger role exceeding their number in deterring Hamas in regard to Sharia issues, while the role of women's organizations will become stronger in the future. However, It is noteworthy that not one woman succeeded in capturing a seat in any of the 66 district elections.

What should be done?
An international- Palestinian opposition alliance should be composed soon. This coalition will include all the lists that lost in the elections except for PFLP list which is an extremist organization. Therefore it is an alliance representing 50.5% of the voters, and 70% when the people who do not vote are included. This coalition should:

  • Democratically rebuild the PLO as a representative of all Palestinian people.

  • Work for peace with Israel.

  • Pressure Hamas from inside and outside for moderation, using financial and non-financial means.

  • Promoting tolerant Islamic ideas in the society, and also disseminate widely in Palestine the experiences of democratic Islam in Turkey, Malaysia, Indonesia and the constitutions and philosophies of Christian Democratic Parties.

Other actions might include

  • Promote nonviolence, developing the Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration Strategy strategy (DDR). Confront violence and work for the role of law

  • Confront spoilers and extremists with strong advocacy groups.

  • Fixing and restricting Fatah.

  • Begin building a new democratic party.

  • Promote the ideas of peace between the two peoples.

  • Advocate strong opposition to the abandonment of human rights and peace.

  • Work for building institutional democracy.

  • Involving Jordan and Egypt in the issues of external security.

A strategy for both democracy and liberation
The international community could begin working for a strategy of democracy and liberation together, taking in consideration the two previous experiences:
The first strategy - 1996-2000: A strategy for peace, but no democracy or liberation (the Oslo process)

1) Internally: the absence of democracy, authoritarianism, and corruption.
2) Establishment of strong police and extending militarism in Palestinian life.
3) Violating the rights of the other side: Attacks inside against the Israeli citizens.
4) Promoting violence instead of promoting nonviolence.
5) Peace building was a business more than a deep rooted process.

The second strategy - 2000-2004: A quest for democracy but not liberation (The Road Map approach)


1) Positive formal institutionalization: Financial, prime minister, local, presidential and legislative elections, release of the Basic Law of 2002 and the law of Independence of the Judiciary 2003..etc
2) On the other hand, no move for liberation
3) Democracy returned only in the form of elections of people inside cages: within that situation the people will elect those that they think can get them freedom. In this case it is Hamas, because Fatah bears the responsibility of the results of the previous stage.

This outline will be elaborated in greater detail in future articles.
Walid Salem

Walid Salem is the director of Panorama, the Center for the Dissemination of Democracy and Community Development, East Jerusalem office. He is also the author of books and articles on such issues as democracy, citizenship, youth rights, civil society development, Israeli-Palestinian peace-building, and the right of return. Together with Paul Scham and Benjamin Pogrund, he is author of SHARED HISTORIES: A Palestinian-Israeli Dialogue, Left Coast Press, 2005.

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Replies: 3 comments


I think you underestimate the impact of this sad disaster. Prior to the election, it was estimated that Fatah would take 43% of the votes, but that it would be unable to form a government without Hamas. This was because the Independents refused to recognize Israel and were alligned with Hamas as rejectionists. It is my better estimate that more than 67% of the voters went for a rejectionist position.

Please understand: I am a devout supporter of the Geneva Acords as the only sensible solution yet offered to the Middle East crisis. I have argued with both sides of this issue. UNFORTUNATELY, this vote pretty much is a slap squarely across the face. This is like Israel electing the Kach Party to 2/3's of the seats in its own Knesset!!!!!

With a rejectionist government in place in Palestine, there is probably no hope of a solution to this crisis in my lifetime. And I'm only 40 years old. It is a sad, sad day for anyone who wanted peace. I believe in a two-state solution as the ONLY viable settlement of this conflict. The only problem is that, now, no one seems to agree with me, anymore.

- Jim Wherry

Posted by Jim Wherry @ 02/03/2006 12:50 AM CST

I don't understand.

Posted by Brittany @ 02/03/2006 07:36 PM CST

Here is our B E S T tool for peace building.

If all the peace efforts up to now haven’t moved enough people to stop the hostilities and heal the wounds, then we can not be sure that even more of these efforts will do the job, especially now that Hamas has won the election.

Something new is needed. The conflict will surely escalate in this new political climate. Time is running out. Circumstances are calling for a different, more helpful approach now.

So here comes CHANGES AHEAD. Here is a book to help both Israelis and Palestinians see their religions, their lives and themselves in a larger way so their true commonality can be seen and attractive possibilities can be recognized and pursued. A section on expanding one’s personal finances (starting on page 81) adds, of course, an unexpected value to this book.

Changes Ahead enables each of us, worldwide, to speed our social development by showing how we are each more of a person than we have considered our self to be. It helps us move beyond our fears, hurts and angers to see the good life together that a growing number of people are ready to build now. I’m talking about discovering a more evolved life together than we have given thought to before.

The book, Changes Ahead, is free. It’s an easy download for everyone who clicks on: . From behind a writing style that is conversational (rather informal and personal) you’ll see a Crossover Bible come through.

This is a short book, only 160 pages long. After you finish those few pages you’ll understand why it’s your best tool. The more it gets out and read by others, the more momentum builds for a lasting peace and happier life in the region.

So go to: to see the book. Use all or parts of it, as you wish.

With best wishes,

(Olaf Egeberg)

Posted by Olaf Egeberg @ 02/04/2006 04:34 PM CST

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