- Published on Tuesday, 24 April 2012 16:14
Speaking to Haaretz, members of Gaza's ruling Hamas party, have acknowledged that the party has held secret elections for the group's regional politbureau which were swept by candidates of its militant wing. The newly elected 15-member panel will not include any of the Hamas' so-called moderates each of whom failed to attract sufficient support among its memebers.
According to Haaretz, Ismael Haniyeh was elected as the politbureaus new chairman by a wide margin. Following the Palestinian general election in 2006 Haniyeh was elected as the Palestinan Authority's first Hamas Prime Minister but later dismissed by President Mahmoud Abbas. When Hamas took over power in Gaza Haniyeh continued to head the government in the strip, however, without assuming the official position of party chief. That office had remained vacant ever since the assassination of Haniyeh's now-predecessor Abd'al-Aziz al-Rantissi.
The vote that reconstituted the party's 77-member advisory council along with the smaller, executive-like politbureau significantly strengthened the party's militant wing, Haaretz reports. While none of the moderate candidates managed to win a seat in the politbureau two former fighters, who had only recently been released from Israeli prisons in exchange for IDF Soldier Gilad Shalit, were elected.
The elections might also hint at the outcome of the general elections that Hamas is planning to hold next month when the party will choose a successor to its current political leader, Khaled Meshal. During those elections each of Hamas' three regional bodies (Gaza, Westbank, Abroad) will pick six members to form the party's general politbureau. Meshal, who lives in Damascus, has already stated that he would not seek reelection - a reaction, many suspect, to the growing opposition to his leadership from the Gaza leadership.