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The Palestinian Authority yesterday announced the official results of last Thursday's municipal elections - but declined to give a breakdown as to how many of the winning candidates belonged to Fatah as opposed to Hamas.

Overall, voter turnout was 81 percent, and in some places, it exceeded 90 percent, Local Affairs Minister Jamal Shubeiki said. Elections were held in 26 localities, and each of the new councils will now choose one of its members to serve as mayor.

With Shubeiki declining to give the winners' party affiliations, it is still not clear how Fatah did relative to Hamas overall. Hamas won a clear victory in seven towns and Fatah in 12; in the other seven towns, neither obtained a clear majority, enabling smaller parties or independents to play kingmaker. Both Fatah and Hamas are now wooing the independents in these seven towns intensively.

However, the party breakdown in these elections does not necessarily reflect the parties' strength on a national scale, since clan affiliations and local issues were often more important than the candidate's party, and many candidates chose to downplay their party affiliations.

In Tubas, for instance, neither Fatah nor Hamas actually ran a list of its own; instead, each backed different independent slates, which won four seats apiece.

Despite this parity, it seems Fatah will come out ahead in Tubas, as most of the other new council members lean toward either Fatah or the secular leftist parties.

Of the 306 newly elected local council members, 46 will be women. By law, two seats on every local council were set aside for women, and 21 of the new councilwomen were elected thanks to these "safe" seats.

However, 25 of the new councilwomen ran against male candidates and won, sometimes by wide margins. In Beni Zayid al-Sharkiya, northwest of Ramallah, for instance, Fatma Sahwil received more votes than any other candidate, beating out 11 men. In another town, a woman candidate received the third largest number of votes.

In Ya'abed, near Jenin, the only woman candidate was Maysun Badarna, who ran despite heavy pressure from her family. She received 395 votes and will be given one of the seats reserved for women. In Beit Furik, near Nablus, one of the new councilwomen is Hanan Awalmeh, sister of the man who murdered minister Rehavam Ze'evi.