2005-02-01 14:57:00
Embassy Tel Aviv
Cable title:  


This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TEL AVIV 000595 


E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/01/2014

Classified By: Deputy Chief of Mission Gene A. Cretz for reasons 1.4 (b
) and (d)

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TEL AVIV 000595


E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/01/2014

Classified By: Deputy Chief of Mission Gene A. Cretz for reasons 1.4 (b
) and (d)

1. (C) Summary: The Hamas sweep in the local-level Gazan
elections of January 27 does not indicate a mandate for Hamas
overall or broad-based support for continued armed struggle
against Israel, according to numerous Embassy contacts.
While Fatah compiled a list of candidates perceived as
corrupt -- in many cases the family members or cronies of
Fatah leadership -- Hamas-backed "doctors and professors"
reportedly known for honesty and integrity were the choices
among the 72 - 90 percent of eligible Gazan voters who cast
their ballots. According to Fatah sources, the party will
more carefully compile its candidate list for the April
municipal elections and the July PLC elections. End Summary.

The Voting by the Numbers -- Hamas Wins Big

2. (SBU) Election observers from the Palestinian Center for
Human Rights/Gaza told Poloff on election day January 27
that, "some glitches aside," the voting was a success and
went smoothly without incidents of violence. According to
some observers, 90% of eligible voters turned out, while
initial data from the Higher Committee on Local Elections put
the number at 72%. Of those who voted, 85% reportedly
registered with the Central Elections Committee (CEC),and
another 30% were listed on the civil register. One observer
reported that despite an overnight shooting in Rafah, the
early morning surge of prospective voters on election day
caused polling station officials there to call for PA police
assistance to organize the waiting crowd.

3. (SBU) According to the Higher Committee on Local
Elections, 414 candidates -- including 68 women -- competed
for 188 seats in ten municipalities, and voters cast their
ballots at 176 polling stations. The size of the ten
municipal councils varies from 9 seats to 15, depending upon
population. Of the 118 seats up for grabs in the January 27
elections, Fatah-backed candidates took a mere 39, while
Hamas-backed lists campaigning under the title the "Change
and Reform List" won 76 seats. Two independents also won
seats, as did one individual affiliated with the PFLP.
According to PCHR, seven of the ten municipalities who

carried out elections elected Hamas-dominated councils.

The Palestinian Anti-Vote

4. (SBU) Mohammad Almbaid, head of USAID's Tamkeen civil
society project working with local NGO election observers,
mused January 31 that a segment of the population voted
against Fatah rather than for another candidate or
organization. Some of these voters wanted to register a
protest vote against Fatah's record of governance to date, he
said, and others wanted to underscore to Fatah that it cannot
take for granted the political dominance it has thus far
enjoyed. Almbaid argued that the local elections were taken
much more seriously than the presidential elections, as
evidenced by the drastically higher turnout for the former.
Furthermore, he explained, family and tribal connections were
critically important -- more so even than party affiliations
-- in local elections as opposed to presidential.

5. (C) Abdulsamia Effrangi, a politically savvy and
mainstream Fatah member who was involved in developing the
Fatah candidate lists, told Poloff January 31 that he and
several others within the Gaza Fatah machine had predicted
"trouble coming." The composition of the Fatah candidate
lists, he said, was influenced by individuals like Rashid Abu
Shabak and others "interested in preserving their own
influence," and weighted towards favored candidates rather
than electable ones. Effrangi claims to have advised Fatah
to revise the list, since many of the names that appeared
were among those known and reviled among the public at large,
but said his recommendations were not adopted. When Gazans
went to the polls, he argued, they in many cases cast their
vote for "anyone but the Fatah candidate."

Hamas Win Not a Mandate for Armed Intifada

6. (C) Both Effrangi and Almbaid, cautioned against viewing
the outcome of the elections as an out and out victory for
Hamas per se, or as a mandate for the continued armed
struggle against Israel. Of the 78 "Hamas" candidates
elected, Effrangi estimated that only 30-35 or so have any
genuine affiliation with the organization, and that to
varying degrees. The remainder was what Effrangi termed
independent, "clean" candidates who share or are identified
with Hamas' anti-corruption or "clean government" platform,
and who were thus supported by Hamas. Pepsi CEO and Gazan
business leader Mohammed Yazgi noted that Hamas had fielded
"doctors and university professors who had nothing to do with
Hamas before elections," but whom Hamas knew would be popular
with voters.

7. (C) Effrangi and Yazgi contended that Fatah must take a
"good long look" at its bad reputation among the Gazan public
before assembling candidate slates for the next round of
municipal elections in April, and certainly before the PLC
elections set for July 17. Effrangi said he intends again to
recommend that Fatah make better efforts to assess
candidates' electability and popularity among voters as major
criteria for their inclusion on the list. Yazgi noted,
however, that Hamas has already put together another "strong
list" that may threaten Fatah again. In his view, Fatah must
either postpone upcoming elections -- a move that may only
strengthen accusations of corruption -- or act quickly to
overhaul its method of candidate selection.
What Does the Future Hold?

8. (C) Of the several observers and pundits with whom Poloff
spoke, non seemed to fear that the Hamas sweep would mean the
imposition of a "radical" agenda or free reign to militant
activity. On the contrary, the comment heard repeatedly was
"Let them govern and we'll see if they can do it." The
Egyptian Charge d'Affaires told Deputy Chief of Mission that
the significance of the Hamas victories should not be
exaggerated. While Hamas has a solid core of adherents, the
vast majority of voters were Gazans whose position would
change in response to improvements in their economic
situation. Observers from Tamkeen and PCHR, as well as
various other local contacts agreed that the PLC elections in
July will be hotly contested, more so perhaps than even these
local elections. While it is clear from these elections, at
least to some, that Fatah must take steps to put its own
house in order if it is to perform more convincingly in
upcoming municipal and PLC elections. Its best opportunity
to do so, however -- during the Fatah 6th Conference
scheduled for August 2005 -- will take place after these
elections have been held. Another factor affecting Fatah's
fate at the polls, according to many PA officials who have
spoken to ConGen officers, will be PA President Mazen's
performance in the coming months, measured by the extent to
which he can show Palestinians that their lives have improved
under his leadership.

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