Hamas, the militant Islamic movement, appeared to be headed for fresh gains yesterday as the latest round of Palestinian local elections provided a dress rehearsal for a parliamentary poll this summer that is expected to undermine the dominance of the ruling &to=http:// english.pravda.ru/hotspots/2002/06/13/30299.html ' target=_blank>Fatah party.
Palestinians voted in 84 constituencies across the West Bank and Gaza Strip after an earlier round of municipal elections in January saw the Islamists gain control of a majority of the municipal councils they contested.
Political analysts put Hamas's gains down to a widespread protest vote against Fatah, a party identified with corruption and inefficiency in the Palestinian Authority during the lifetime of its former leader, the late Yassir Arafat.
In February Hamas signed up to a ceasefire with Israel, brokered by &to=http:// english.pravda.ru/mailbox/22/101/399/14946_.html ' target=_blank>Mahmoud Abbas, Mr Arafat's successor as PA president. It will be standing in national elections for the first time when Palestinians vote for a new parliament on July 17.
Nowhere did Hamas face a steeper uphill struggle yesterday than in Beit Jala, part of the so-called Christian triangle south of Jerusalem. The Islamists fielded three candidates in the predominantly Greek Orthodox town on a euphemistically named Reconciliation Movement list, reports FT News.