Pro-Hamas group wins Birzeit University elections

Pro-Hamas group wins Birzeit University elections
A student group closely linked with Hamas takes control of the student council in Birzeit, in the heart of the Fatah-controlled occupied West Bank.
2 min read
23 April, 2015
Fatah had dominated student politics at Birzeit, but Hamas is again on the rise [Anadolu]

For the first time since 2007, Hamas has decisively won Birzeit University council elections in Ramallah.

The results are significant, due to Birzeit's standing as one of the top universities in Palestine, and may reflect wider political opinion in the occupied West Bank, currently governed by the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority.

A university official announced that 7,039 students voted with a turnout of 77 percent. The Hamas-affiliated bloc won 26 seats, while al-Shabiba, the pro-Fatah bloc, managed to take 19, a sharp decrease from their success in last year's 23 seats.

The leftist group, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, came third with five seats.

Although the elections were held as Hamas and Fatah are struggling through reconciliation negotiations and salary disputes, Khalil Hindi, president of the university, praised the elections for having taken place peacefully and in a democratic atmosphere.

During the election campaign, Hamas supporters criticised the continuing security collaboration between Fatah and Israel, and emphasised the movement's military achievements in the 2014 Gaza war.

"Everyone is a winner in Birzeit University and we all win when we rely on democracy," said Khaled Meshaal, the political leader of Hamas.

"My advice to the Islamic bloc is to drop their affiliations and focus on serving all students in the university in collaboration with all the other student blocs."

Following the news, student supporters of Hamas have been holding celebratory rallies across the campus.

There have been mixed reactions on social media, particularly among leftist and independent students, with one PFLP-affiliated Facebook page praising the students of Birzeit for "choosing the way of resistance and not negotiations", while other activists expressed disappointment at the success of the socially conservative Islamic movement.

The secretary of Fatah's Revolutionary Council, Amin Maqboul, told a local radio show that the party would study its loss.

"Fatah is in the process of forming a​ committee to investigate the Birzeit election results, the results of the investigation will include resignations, dismissals and a review of what lessons can be learnt," he said.

Birzeit University has long been an important centre for Palestinian activism, with a number of its students currently political prisoners in Israeli jails.