Edging out Palestinian Ammar Hasan, Ayman al-Aatar persuaded a majority of the 3.2 million viewers to cast their phone, text message and email votes for him.

After the 54% to 46% result was announced on Sunday, both finalists appeared on stage together - holding each other's national flag in a display of unity.

But it was the runner-up's progress to the final that had generated the most news over the last 13 weeks.

Crowds had gathered at Hasan's home town of Salfit, in the occupied West Bank, to watch the contest.

Hasan's father, Hasan Daqruq, said that his son had become a symbol of the Palestinian struggle for independence. "To each his own. Some fight for Palestine. My son sings for Palestine."

Serious voting

Multiple votes were allowed, and rumours were rife among the Palestinians that Libya had provided free telephone lines to boost the vote for their national.

But one young Palestinian computer expert confessed he had devised a shortcut that would allow easy multiple voting for Ammar Hasan.

"There is more than one way to fight for your country," he explained.