A festive atmosphere reigned in the Palestinian territories last night, as Hamas supporters revelled in the party’s election victory. Yesterday it was confirmed the Islamic militant group had swept to victory in parliamentary polls, defeating the long-dominant Fatah party. It won 76 seats to Fatah’s 43 – a stunning result for a movement making its first foray into national politics.
It is seen as a major blow to Fatah’s moderate leader, Mahmoud Abbas. He hasconfirmed he will stay on as Palestinian President and hold consultations on the formation of a government. However he has signalled that he may resign if unable to pursue a peace policy and has made clear Fatah will not join any coalition with Hamas. Just hours after it was being reported Hamas had won the vote, Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia announced he was stepping down. Moments after the results were announced, Hammas supporters briefly raised their flags on the main parliament building in the West Bank city of Ramallah.Some clashed with Fatah loyalists. Unrest was also reported near Jenin and Hebron. Many fear Hamas’ victory will jeopardise the resumption of stalled peace talks with Israel.