As the second stage of local elections concluded, dispute between Hamas and Fatah is rising over who won more of the different councils.

In the West Bank, while Hamas claimed it had won with a majority the seats of 31 councils out of 68 it competed in, Fatah was faster in declaring victory in most of the councils.

There were 84 electorate circles, 76 of them in the West Bank and 8 in the Gaza Strip.

{mosimage}In most of the 84 circles, the competition is between Fatah and Hamas. Only in few, there was a space for some independent candidates or other political factions, like the ‘Popular and Democratic Fronts for the Liberation of Palestine’ (PFLP and DFLP), and the Palestinian People’s Party.

Hamas had a very strong show up in the first stage of the elections, which put Fatah in front of a harder competing situation.

Yet, Hamas candidates won with a majority almost 46% of the councils they ran for. In the Gaza Strip, Hamas won 4 out 6 councils they ran for.  However, there is a big dispute over the results of Rafah elections.

Hamas criticized the early declaration of victory by Fatah and said that this created chaos in the Palestinian street.

Hamas won councils in two major cities; Qalqilia in the West Bank and Rafah in the Gaza Strip.

Abdullah Al-Afranji, member of the central committee of Fatah said in a press conference in Gaza city, ‘it is not a loss that we did not win some major cities councils, because other Palestinian factions won them, we are competing and not fighting.’

Al-Afranji demanded a recount of ballots in both al-Bureij and Rafah in the Gaza Strip.

Meanwhile, Sami Abu Zuhri, spokesman of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, said it is in accurate to measure the popularity of a certain faction based on the number of seats won, because the seats do not represent the same number of people in different circles.

‘In some areas, there were only 1890 illegible voters, where in other areas, 74611 residents are illegible voters.  We can not equate them, the seat in one of them means more people than the other,’ Abu Zuhri said.

Apparently, the intended Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza strip was a major factor in the elections.

Responding to a question on whether Hamas’ victory in most of the Gaza Strip councils would be used by Israel as a pretext to halt the withdrawal, Dr. Mahmoud A-Zahar of Hamas told the press conference, ‘let them halt the withdrawal, we will resist them.’  ‘It is true we are committed to the declared cease-fire, because it is an internal Palestinian affair, we respect it, but we did not lay down arms, so if they [Israeli settlements and soldiers] stay, we will fight them, as we fought them before.’

Al-Zahar also said that if Israel withdraws, it is only because of the resistance, it is not a gift or a favor they are doing for the Palestinians.  However, he affirmed that Hamas will allow a quite withdrawal.

Concerning the upcoming parliamentary election, Al-Zahar reiterated Hamas’ rejection to any delay in the elections scheduled for July 17, and said, Hamas did not accept to join a national unity government instead of elections.

Despite the charged environment between Fatah and Hamas in the elections, the elections were a real democratic process.

Two journalists made it to the council in two circles.  In Qalqilia, Journalist Mustafa Sabri won with 7546 votes in Hamas’ list.  Ja’afar Ishteyeh won with 817 votes in Salem council.  Ishteyeh ran as an independent.

In Bethlehem area, Hamas had he least effect.  The competition was mainly between Fatah and the left wing factions.

The seats where shared by Fatah, the PFLP, DFLP, the Palestinian People’s Party, Hamas and some independent candidates.

More than 2,500 candidates vied for the council seats. 400,000 Palestinians were eligible to vote.