The Palestinian cabinet resigned on Thursday after the Islamic militant group Hamas claimed victory in Palestinian legislative elections. The claim has yet to be independently confirmed by the Palestinian electoral commission, which is expected to issue official results later Thursday. Israel's acting prime minister has called an emergency cabinet meeting to discuss the election results.
The Palestinian cabinet resigned Thursday following claims by Hamas leaders that they had won an overwhelming victory in Palestinian legislative elections. Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia told reporters after submitting his resignation that the voters' wishes should be respected.
"This is the choice of the people. It should be respected," he said. "I think if the majority has now approved and this has been reached, I think Hamas should form a new government. The president should ask Hamas to form a new government."
President Mahmoud Abbas is now expected to ask Hamas to form a new government, although he has not said when he will do so. In the weeks leading up to the legislative election, Mr. Abbas said he would consider resigning if Hamas won a majority of seats.
The election results are being described as a political earthquake. Exit polls following the closing of the polls on Wednesday indicated that President Abbas' Fatah Party held a small lead over Hamas. Mahdi Abdul Hadi, who heads PASSIA, a Palestinian public policy institute, says Fatah's claims of political legitimacy did not convince a Palestinian electorate, weary of corruption and government mismanagement.
"They claimed legitimacy from the old days of the revolution and legitimacy from the legacy of Yasser Arafat," he said. "This exposed them as naked in the street and did not have a constituency. Hamas, on the other side, they were well prepared and introduced themselves as an alternative. We are not talking about freedom, independence and liberation. We are talking about water, electricity, sewage, education and health."
Hamas leaders say they are seeking what they describe as a "political partnership" with other Palestinian parties. At the same time, Hamas leaders say they have no plans to disarm or recognize Israel, as demanded by Israel, the United States and the European Union.