Hamas, national politics top student poll at West Bank university
Thursday, May 25, 2023       00:53 WIB

Ramallah, Palestinian Territories, May 24, 2023 (AFP)
A Hamas-affiliated student bloc won on Wednesday elections at a top West Bank university, a fixture of Palestinian politics in the occupied territory with no general elections since 2006.
The annual vote for the student council at Birzeit University outside Ramallah has been dominated by politics, which experts say reflects the lack of political horizon for young Palestinians.
Hamas, the Islamist movement which rules the blockaded Gaza Strip, will have 25 representatives on the Birzeit student council, according to results announced by its Student Affairs Department.
The Hamas-affiliated bloc was down three seats in Wednesday's vote compared with last year, losing its majority on the student body.
Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas's Fatah movement won 20 seats -- up two from last year -- while the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine gained one seat, with six in this year's poll.
In a similar poll two weeks ago at An-Najah National University in Nablus, the Hamas bloc won with two seats over than the rival Fatah bloc.
Birzeit University bills the event, which also included an open debate between candidates on Tuesday, a "free space" for "free thought".
Thousands of students attended the debate, an AFP reporter said, enthusiastically cheering for their preferred bloc.
Imad Ghayathah, political science lecturer at Birzeit who has written about Palestinian student movements, told AFP that "the absence of a general political process projects on... trade unions and student council" that have become key political arenas.
Abbas scrapped elections scheduled for 2021 citing Israel's refusal to allow voting in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem, which Palestinians claim as their capital.
- 'War of words' -
Tuesday's debate was not limited to campus issues.
Candidates spoke about Palestinians killed and arrested by Israeli forces, touched on the ongoing disputes between Palestinian factions, and criticised the Palestinian Authority for its continued security coordination with Israel.
Accusations were also hurled at Hamas-affiliated candidates, taking aim at the group's leader Ismail Haniyeh for residing in Qatar instead of Gaza, and for the movement as a whole for staying out of a deadly round of fighting earlier this month between Israel and Islamic Jihad militants in the coastal territory.
Fatah representatives criticised Hamas for not allowing elections in the Gaza Strip, ruled by the Islamist movement since 2007.
Such election campaigns in Palestinian universities and trade unions often have little to do with the institutions themselves and more with general politics, Ghayathah said, "especially as this young generation has not had an actual political experience in public life".
Palestinian political scientist Jehad Harb shares Ghayathah's view, telling AFP the popularity of the student poll is the result of no "electoral process in society outside the university".
The vote is a way for the students "to express themselves", he said in a statement.
But Harb cautioned against taking the results as a measure of overriding trends, saying they "do not reflect the level of (support for) these factions in Palestinian society in general".
Media student Sally Qadri said she supports "students focusing on the political situation" because general politics shapes other areas of life.
"The lack of elections to the Legislative Council (parliament) has increased our interest in student elections," she told AFP.
But some object to the oversized role of general politics in the student body elections.
Reena al-Khatib, a politics student, said she would like the "student council to protect my rights within the university" rather than the vote becoming "a war of words between political student blocs".

Sumber : AFP