Students revel as Hamas bloc wins West Bank university poll

Published May 20, 2022
Palestinian students celebrate the victory of Hamas in student union elections at Birzeit University, in Israeli-occupied West Bank, on Thursday.—AFP
Palestinian students celebrate the victory of Hamas in student union elections at Birzeit University, in Israeli-occupied West Bank, on Thursday.—AFP

RAMALLAH: Hamas supporters celebrated on Thursday a landslide student election win at a top West Bank university, results experts said further point to the Islamists’ growing support in the occupied Palestinian territory.

Hamas’s Al Wafaa’ Islamic bloc won 28 of the 51 seats on the student council at Birzeit University, marking the first time Islamist-aligned candidates have gained control of the body.

The bloc aligned with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas’ secular Fatah movement won just 18 seats.

Students paraded Hamas’ green flag across campus, as crowds of young men bellowed chants more often heard in the Gaza Strip, a separate Palestinian enclave controlled by the Islamist group.

“Our victory in these elections confirms the support (for Hamas) of the Palestinian people,” Osaid Qaddoumi, one of the bloc’s candidates said, echoing statements made by Yahya Sinwar, the Hamas chief in Gaza. The general Palestinian population has not been to the polls since 2006.

Abbas scrapped elections scheduled for last year citing Israel’s refusal to allow voting in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem, which Palestinians claim as their capital. But Palestinian analysts said Abbas baulked out of fears Hamas would also trounce Fatah across the West Bank, which has been occupied by Israel since the 1967 Six-Day war.

Birzeit’s vice president, Ghassan al-Khatib, said some saw the campus vote as “a test for measuring public opinion”, with no general elections on the horizon.

Published in Dawn, May 20th, 2022

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