Hamas wins Al-Najah Univ. student council elections

Hamas’ student movement has regained its governing position on Al-Najah University’s student council, winning 40 seats in council elections on Tuesday. Fatah’s student organization won 34 seats in the election. Last year Fatah won council elections by a small margin, defeating Hamas who had for eight years governed the university’s student council. Sources in Nablus said the results of the university elections were a sign that Hamas could have a similar victory in the coming city leadership elections, scheduled for December 15, and for parliamentary elections, set for January 25. Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas said Tuesday he’ll honor results of Fatah primaries conducted in the West Bank, but has not decided whether voting should resume in the Gaza Strip. Earlier on Tuesday, Abbas gave the go ahead for polling in the Jerusalem area, despite an earlier suspension of the ballot in the West Bank and Gaza over widespread fraud in Gaza and the West Bank. The ballots in the Gaza Strip were, however, not opened on Tuesday Gaza after gunmen disrupted voting at several polling stations the previous day. The primaries – ahead of a January parliamentary election in which Islamic group Hamas poses a strong challenge – were Fatah’s first. They have been seen as a key step for Abbas to assert his control. “Abbas has instructed the election committee to stop the entire election process in all areas as a result of the widespread fraud,” Ahmed al-Deek, a senior Fatah official, told Reuters. Deek accused some security forces of complicity in the fraud. PA officials began discussions to cancel primaries held in Gaza on Monday and in the West Bank over the weekend. West Bank candidates who won their elections protested the move, accusing Fatah’s senior guard of trying to prevent the entry of younger candidates, which swept to victory in the weekend’s primaries in the West Bank – including Tanzim head Marwan Barghouti who is imprisoned in Israel. Sources close to Mahmoud Abbas reported that after the primaries he would head a 35-strong panel of Fatah leaders to determine the final list. The sources said he intends to add attractive candidates from outside the movement to the list in a bid to increase its popularity. The drive to cancel the primaries began after Monday’s election fiasco in the Gaza Strip in which 326 candidates contended for 48 parliamentary seats at some 200 polling stations. Dozens of violent incidents took place including fire exchanges and burning cars, while gunmen took over several polling stations, stealing their contents and threatening and shooting at polling committee members. Five polling booths were set ablaze and 10 others were fired at in Rafah. Mass brawls erupted between gunmen from various Fatah groups in Khan Yunis, Abasan and Bani Suhila, which was followed by gunfire and the burning of parked cars. Similar incidents took place in the al-Bureij and Muasi refugee camps and in Dir al-Balah, Beit Lahia and Beit Hanun. The reasons for many of the clashes were claims that candidates had been removed from voting forms and that voters had been sent to cast their ballot in areas in which they do not live. The Fatah committee organizing the elections reported numerous logistic problems, and at about 7 P.M., the regional election committees announced cancellation of the primaries. Some committees said the elections were merely postponed to later this week, but senior sources in Gaza confirmed that the elections were canceled, and when Palestinian Authority Chairman Abbas returns from the Barcelona Conference, he will have to decide what to do.