Analysts: Win rocks political landscape

The election sweep by the Islamic resistance group Hamas greatly alters the Middle East's political landscape and will have serious repercussions regionally and internationally, analysts say.

    Hamas leaders will have to take some criticial decisions soon

    Talal Awkal, a Gaza analyst, said the Hamas victory represents an upheaval in the Palestinian political system, long dominated solely by the Fatah party.
    "Everything is going to be changed. We are in a new period.  We are rebuilding the regime, we are rebuilding the Palestinian policy, we are rebuilding the mechanisms of national relations, and our way of dealing with our people," Awkal told on Thursday.
    "We now have a vibrant democracy and contradictions in national relations that will bring the Palestinians to a new stage.  I think these elections have strategic direct and indirect consequences on Palestinian and regional and international circumstances."
    Western governments have largely shunned the Hamas victory, threatening to cut aid and saying they will not accept a government with the Islamic group in power, while celebrating the democratic process that put it there.

    Burden of governance

    Fatah leaders have applauded the results of what they referred to as a "democratic wedding" while giving warning that the burden of governance now rests on Hamas's shoulders. They say they will not take part in any Hamas coalition.

    Analysts have said Hamas will have to take some critical decisions about their political programme in the coming days as it becomes answerable to a population desperate for real change.

    Hamas's win may result in loss of
    Western aid for Palestinians

    Awkal believes, given the political realities, that those changes are inevitable.  
    "Hamas realises it has responsibilities inside the new regime. I think they are ready to change," he said.

    "I think all the Palestinians know that change of the position for Hamas and the others will push them to think in a new way because they are now responsible inside the regime for internal Palestinian problems and are equal with others in responsibilities."
    Runners-up like the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine's Mustafa Abu Ali List and former presidential hopeful Mustafa al-Barghuthi's Independent Palestine, once thought to be major balancing powers, are no longer relevant, says lawmaker Hanan Ashrawi.

    "Had there been an equal balance stand up between Hamas and Fatah, then yes, then you would say these smaller blocs would tip the balance. But very clearly Hamas is getting a distinct majority," Ashrawi said.
    Religious factor

    Ashrawi, who won one of two seats in the parliament under the Third Way List, says she doubts she will agree to join a coalition government with Hamas if offered the opportunity, saying she does not believe "religion should be the basis of good governance". 

    Hamas may decide to adopt
    a more pragmatic political stand 

    "I believe in a society that is open and tolerant and respects plurality. I don't want to see a theocracy and hope Hamas doesn't work out a theocracy," said Ashrawi.

    According to the veteran legislator, Hamas's victory was the result of an array of factors across the voting spectrum.
    "Fatah was hogging power and not responding to people's needs and rights," she said.

    "Hamas responded by getting the angry vote and the rejection and revenge vote and the protest vote and of course the reform vote, and not necessarily all the ideological vote. Part of Hamas's victory was made by Fatah."  
    Ashrawi also believes that it is not in the former ruling party's interest to join forces with Hamas just now.
    "Fatah needs to be in the opposition if they want to be distinct and put their own house in order," Ashrawi said.

    "If they enter with Hamas it will be opportunistic."  

    Nevertheless, she says there are opportunities for coalition building with some of the other parties, something Hamas is likely to do.
    "The different groups are not monolithic, I'm sure some of them will enter into an alliance [with Hamas] and others will not."

    The election result is also expected to have a significant impact on the Israeli political scene.

    According to Arnon Regular, an Israeli political analyst and Haaretz correspondent, the Hamas victory will have a direct impact on who gets voted into power in Israeli elections.
    Coming in the middle of what he calls "the Israeli electoral war" he expects the shockwaves from the Hamas victory to have a big impact on the Israeli poll scheduled for 28 March.

    "The right wing will become more powerful than Kadima and Kadima will not survive for long as the right wing accuses Kadima and those who supported the withdrawal for the victory of Hamas," he said.

    "They will accuse them with the building of what is called 'Hamasistan'."
    Burden of power

    Regular says the burden of the sudden and overwhelming responsibility for running a state and answering to constituents' long and varied demands will oblige Hamas, which was surprised as anyone by the sweep, to make clear political decisions.

    "In the beginning of the intifada, something called Hamasisation happened with Fatah, they became like Hamas; and now Fatahisation will happen to Hamas"

    Arnon Regular,
    Israeli political analyst

    "Hamas was not ready for a victory. For now there is a kind of political caution and waiting," Regular said.

    "Hamas must look for technocratic professionals to form the government in order to succeed.

    "In the coming days, Hamas will be obliged to take important and clear political decisions: whether to go towards openness as the ruling Islamic party in Turkey, or the Talibani norm in Afghanistan."

    He said that he expects Hamas to take the former route.
    Regular expects there to be a change in the stance of Hamas, even if not in the near future.
    "It will take a long time. It will happen with them as what happened with Fatah. In the beginning of the intifada, something called Hamasisation happened with Fatah, they became like Hamas; and now Fatahisation will happen to Hamas."

    SOURCE: Aljazeera


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