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Fatah scoops 65 councils in West Bank local elections

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    Last update - 09:27 01/10/2005 Fatah scoops 65 councils in West Bank local elections By Amos Harel, Haaretz Correspondent, Haaretz Service and Agencies
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 1, 2005
      Last update - 09:27 01/10/2005

      Fatah scoops 65 councils in West Bank local elections

      By Amos Harel, Haaretz Correspondent, Haaretz Service and Agencies

      Results registered Friday for municipal elections held in Palestinian towns
      and villages in the West Bank the previous day indicate that the ruling Fatah
      party won 54 percent of the vote, while the Hamas militant group won 26

      Fatah won control of 65 of the 104 municipal councils up for grabs compared
      with 22 for Hamas and 17 for other factions, said Firas Yaghi, executive
      director of the Higher Commission for Local Elections. Official figures are
      due on Saturday.

      Fatah's showing was better than expected, as the party had been losing ground
      to Hamas in other recent votes. Analysts said many Palestinian voters are
      returning to Fatah following Israel's recent pullout from the Gaza Strip.

      Hamas said the preliminary figures did not reflect its grassroots popularity,
      noting that its candidates did not run in some districts for fear of arrest by

      Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah movement will now be in
      control of 61 councils out of the 104, with Hamas running 28.

      Other parties and independents won in 15 councils, said Jamal Shubeikeh, head
      of the PA local elections commission. Shubeikeh put the voter turnout at 81

      Other candidates included the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine,
      Islamic Jihad, and independent lists.

      The local polls have been seen as a test of the strength for the radical Hamas
      in advance of the Janurary 25 elections for the Palestinian Legislative

      "Particularly after Israel's withdrawal from Gaza and the run-up to
      legislative elections, the municipal results will have important political
      implications as they will form the basis of how the factions will perform,"
      said Shubeikeh.

      According to figures obtained by Haaretz, races in larger municipalities such
      as Bituniya, near Ramallah, and Al-Hadr, near Bethlehem, were tight, with a
      slight advantage for Fatah. Hamas edged out its competitors in more rural
      areas. This advantage was obvious in the village of Tzurif, near Hebron,
      Shukba, near Ramallah, and Issira Shamaliya, near Nablus.

      Fatah won the elections by default in 22 municipalities in which no other
      parties ran. Hamas decided to run in only 56 relatively large municipalities.

      The voting has been deferred indefinitely in the Gaza Strip, where
      Palestinians also seek statehood, despite Israel's withdrawal earlier this
      month. Elections officials blamed a lack of time to prepare.

      Unlike in the first phase of the municipal election in May, when candidates
      ran individually, this time more than 144,000 voters in the West Bank will
      choose among faction lists.

      Ahead of the vote, senior military intelligence sources told Haaretz that
      Hamas may be weakened in the vote by its strategy of repeated attacks on
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