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Fatah: Hamas wins Palestinian elections
Updated: 2006-01-26 15:19

Officials in the ruling Fatah Party said Thursday that Hamas captured a majority of seats in Palestinian legislative elections, shortly after the militant group claimed victory.

The Fatah officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said they expected Hamas to win about 70 seats, which would give the Islamists a majority in the 132-seat parliament. They spoke on condition of anonymity because counting in some districts was continuing.

Fatah: Hamas wins Palestinian elections
Supporters of Hamas gesture after polls closed in a Palestinian election in the West Bank city of Hebron January 25, 2006.[Reuters]
Earlier,, a Hamas leader said an initial count of votes showed the militant Islamist group had won a majority of seats in the Palestinian parliament, putting it in a position to shape a new government.

"Hamas has won more than 70 seats in Gaza and the West Bank, which gives it more than 50 percent of the vote", Ismail Haniyeh, who headed Hamas's list in Wednesday's elections, told Reuters. He did not say how many votes had been counted.

Fatah: Hamas wins Palestinian elections
Senior Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar speaks to journalists after he casts his ballots in Gaza City, January 25, 2006.[Reuters]
The Palestinian electoral commission had no immediate comment but was expected to issue official results later on Thursday for the 132-member parliament.

A Hamas role in the government could dim prospects for restarting peace talks with Israel.

The United States, main sponsor of an international peace "road map" for Israel and the Palestinians, said it would accept the elections as a reflection of the will of the people but that President Mahmoud Abbas should keep Hamas in opposition.

Fatah: Hamas wins Palestinian elections
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas shows his marked finger after casting his vote at Palestinian Authority headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah January 25, 2006. [Reuters]
U.S, President George W. Bush, whose administration lists Hamas as a terrorist organisation, said he would not deal with the group unless it renounced its policy of seeking Israel's destruction.

On Wednesday, exit polls showed Hamas had won at least 53 seats and that Abbas's Fatah, which has dominated Palestinian politics for decades, had got 58.

"This is a victory of the Palestinian people who voted against the occupation (by Israel in the West Bank), who voted for resistance, who voted for a new political system based on political partnership," said Haniyeh.

Such results would put Hamas in a position to set the shape of a Palestinian government, he said.

Haniyeh said he would consult Abbas "over the shape of political partnership ... because we are partners in the field".

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