JABALIYA, Gaza Strip (AFP) – Hamas and Islamic Jihad members vowed to obey orders from their Islamist groups to boycott Sunday’s Palestinian election as frontrunner Mahmud Abbas urged a massive turnout to bolster his legitmacy.
“I won’t vote and I don’t believe in these things. This election is an Israeli-American game just marketed for the Palestinians to distract them from their struggles. Nothing less,” said Abu Mohammed from Islamic Jihad in northern Gaza.
“I support Islamic Jihad, but I was going to boycott the elections even before they called for it,” said the 32-year-old sign painter from the run-down Jabaliya refugee camp.
Consenting to talk only in deserted strawberry patches in the northern Gaza Strip (news – web sites), a 24-year-old engineering graduate and Hamas member said Saturday that his obedience to the radical faction was total.
“Firstly, I don’t believe in any of the seven candidates. Secondly, I am a Hamas member. Tomorrow is a day off for me. I’ll probably stay home and watch TV,” he said, calling himself Abu Mujahid.
“I do what Hamas asks me to… Palestinians have sacrificed their sons and their homes and I am ready to sacrifice myself,” he added.
The loyalty of their membership is such that both Hamas and its smaller rival, Islamic Jihad, denied any pressure would be necessary to ensure their supporters stayed away from the polls on Sunday.
Spokesman Khaled el-Batsch said 10 to 12 percent of the population living in the shattered Gaza Strip belonged to Jihad and would stick to the boycott.
“I think a large part of the Palestinian population outside Jihad will also boycott the election. We won’t need force to enforce the boycott,” he told AFP.
“Hamas has declared its boycott and definitely the core will remain committed to this, because the Palestinian people are politically aware,” said spokesman Mushir al-Masri.
Yet Kamel (eds: correct) Mohammed Ghabin, who lost four of his sons when an Israeli tank shell fired in response to a Hamas rocket strike exploded outside his home, said he was determined to vote for a better future.
“What can we do? I’ve already lost my sons, but God willing I’ll vote tomorrow, although I haven’t decided who for yet,” he said.
Others, independent of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, sympathised with the boycott.
In Jabaliya, teacher Abu Wissam said he had no intention of going to the polls because none of the candidates could halt Israeli attacks.
“If anyone of them could, we’d be safe, but they can’t. Only if the Americans put real pressure on the Israeli government can there be any real change,” he said.
He accused the militant factions of neglecting social problems while expending too much energy on violence.
“People are starting to complain about random, disorganised resistance. Everything needs proper planning,” he said.
A fellow teacher employed by the education ministry, said he was being paid 500 shekels (114 dollars) by the Palestinian Authority to help man polling stations on Sunday at the request of his superiors at work.
“I’m doing it for the money and to see for myself if it’ll be a really true election or whether it’s just to get Abu Mazen elected,” said Mohammed in Beit Lahia.
“But he’ll bring us nothing and I’m not going to vote. This election isn’t fair because America and Israel support Abu Mazen,” he added.