The latest events can only be described as a political earthquake, both locally and regionally. Not only are these the first truly democratic and hotly contested elections in the Arab Middle East, but also the first time an Islamic party has come to power through the system and the popular will of the people.
To say we are entering a new stage is an understatement. Everyone knew Hamas would do well in these elections and that they would constitute a significant challenge to the ruling party. But this well?
Voters in Gaza were shocked.
“I cast a sympathy vote for Hamas but truthfully I did not expect them to win at all. It was a surprise to everyone; no one expected this to happen,” a young college student said.
Even Hamas members and supporters were surprised.
“We thought we’d get at most 50% of the votes,” one Hamas insider told me.
“We didn’t expect the security forces and the upper classes to vote for us, but it seems they might have tipped the balance. I guess we’re more popular than we realised.”
How the new government will take shape and whether western positions towards it will evolve have all yet to answered. It’s likely that Hamas will form a kind of national unity government, or a coalition of some sort, with a mixture of other parties. The burden of the sudden and overwhelming responsibility for running a state and answering to their constituents’ long and varied list of demands may be more than they can deal with alone at the moment.