A Fatah-affiliated list won Wednesday’s student elections at Birzeit University, with Hamas coming in a distant second in this closely watched contest said to be a test case for Palestinian national elections.
Fatah won student elections at the prestigious Birzeit University, located near Ramallah (Photo: Wikipedia)
The Martyr Yasser Arafat bloc won 26 of the 51 seats, giving it full control over the student council, while the Islamic Alwafa’ list took 19 seats. The Democratic List, affiliated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, took 5 seats, the Popular Struggle Front 1 while additional lists did not receive the requisite number of votes to gain seats.
Hamas has not participated in West Bank student elections since the 2008/2009 school year, claiming that repression by the West Bank Palestinian Authority, and in particular detention of its student leaders, prevented any possibility for fair elections.
The Hamas decision to participate in student elections at the most prestigious Palestinian university is perceived by analysts as a product of the ongoing Fatah-Hamas reconciliation negotiations and Hamas’ decision to compete for popular support in the West Bank.
Israeli forces, however, detained two Hamas-affiliated university activists on Monday night. Former president of the Alwafa’ list, Ayman Abu Aram, and university lecturer Hamdan Saeed were detained from campus, according to a statement issued by the group.
Originally founded as an elementary school for girls in 1924, Birzeit became a college in 1942 and is the first institute of higher education to be established in the Palestinian territory. It is considered to be the premiere Palestinian university, the graduates of which are leaders in all sectors of Palestinian society.