A group associated with Fatah won the Student Council Elections at Bir Zeit University near Ramallah, in which of 8,000 students study for both graduate and undergraduate degrees.
Of the 6,000 students that participated in the vote, 2,194 gave their vote to "The Martyr Yasser Arafat" bloc, giving it full reign over the council with 26 seats out of 51. The bloc associated with Hamas, "The Islamic Relief" bloc, which participated in the election for the first time in three years, followed behind by 600 votes. The 1,606 votes for Islamic Relief earned the bloc 19 seats. The remaining six seats went to two Palestinian left groups.
Fatah supporters celebrated throughout Ramallah following the announcement of the results at about 10 P.M. Wednesday night. Their victory, by a greater margin than ever before, boosted the confidence of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' party, at a time when economic instability had been overshadowing a political dead end.
During the past few years, Hamas had boycotted the student body elections at West Bank universities, claiming that the Palestinian Authority's security forces arrested key activists barring any chance of fair elections. This time, the elections were held without any arrests.
By breaking down the voting data, one can learn that the younger the students the more likely they were to vote for the Fatah. For example, Fourth and fifth year students voted 389 for the Fatah, 380 for the Hamas, while first year students voted 687 for the Fatah and 437 for the Hamas. This discrepancy may be due to the Hamas’s decision not to participate in the past three years, weakening their presence in the student body.
According to students the debate between the two factions was more centered on the issue of national reconciliation than the conflict with Israel.
The voting took place on Wednesday from eight to four in the afternoon with the presence of Palestinian security personnel in civilian clothing felt by the voting students.
Once the voting ended the students were asked to leave and the tallying of the votes began.
Nine parties competed for seats on the student council, including The Martyr Saddam Hussein bloc. Five failed to win a single seat.
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