The election sweep by the Islamic resistance group Hamas dramatically alters the Middle East's political landscape and will have major repercussions both regionally and internationally, analysts say.
The Hamas victory, says Gaza analyst Talal Awkal, represents a true upheaval in the Palestinian political system, long dominated by solely by the Fatah party. "Everything is going to be changed. We are in a new period. We are rebuilding the regime, we are rebuilding the Palestinian policy, we are rebuilding the mechanisms of national relations, and our way of dealing with our people," Awkal told Aljazeera.net on Thursday. "We now have a vibrant democracy and contradictions in national relations that will bring the Palestinians to a new stage. I think these elections have strategic direct and indirect consequences on Palestinian and regional and international circumstances." Western governments have largely shunned the Hamas victory, threatening to cut aid and saying they will not accept a government with the Islamic group in power, while celebrating the democratic process that put it there.
Burden of governance
Fatah leaders have applauded the results of what they referred to as a "democratic wedding" while warning with bitterness that the burden of governance now rests on Hamas's shoulders, saying they will not take part in any Hamas coalition.
Analysts have said that Hamas will have to take some critical decisions about their political programme in the coming days as it becomes answerable to a population desperate for real change.
Hamas' win may result in loss ofWestern aid for Palestinians
Awkal believes given the political realities, those changes are inevitable. "Hamas realises it has responsibilities inside the new regime. I think they are ready to change," he said.
"I think all the Palestinians know that change of the position for Hamas and the others will push them to think in a new way because they are now responsible inside the regime for internal Palestinian problems but and are equal with others in responsibilities." Runners-up like the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine's Mustafa Abu Ali List and former presidential hopeful Mustafa Barghouthi's Independent Palestine, once thought to be major balancing powers, are no long relevant, says lawmaker Hanan Ashrawi.
"Had there been an equal balance stand up between Hamas and Fatah, then yes, then you would say these smaller blocs would tip the balance. But very clearly Hamas is getting a distinct majority," Ashrawi said. Religious factor
Ashrawi, who won one of two seats in the parliament under the Third Way List, says she doubts she will agree to join a coalition government with Hamas if offered the opportunity, saying she does not believe "religion should be the basis of good governance".
Hamas may be forced to adopta more pragmatic political stand
"I believe in a society that is open and tolerant and respects plurality. I don't want to see a a theocracy and hope Hamas doesn' work out a theocracy," said Ashrawi.
According to the veteran legislator, Hamas' victory was the result of an array of factors across the voting spectrum. "Fatah was hogging power and not responding to people's needs and rights," she said.
"Hamas responded by getting the angry vote and the rejection and revenge vote and the protest vote and of course the reform vote, and not necessarily all the ideological vote. Part of Hamas' victory was made by Fatah." Ashrawi also believes it is not in the former ruling party's interest to join forces with Hamas just now. "Fatah needs to be in the opposition if they want to be distinct and put their own house in order," Ashrawi said.
"If they enter with Hamas it will be opportunistic."
Nevertheless, she says there are opportunities for coalition building with some of the other parties, something Hamas is likely to do. "The different groups are not monolithic, I'm sure some of them will enter into an alliance [with Hamas] and others will not."
The election result is also expected to have a major impact on the Israeli political scene.
According to Arnon Regular, an Israeli political analyst and Haaretz correspondent, the Hamas victory will have a direct impact on who gets voted into power in upcoming Israeli elections. Coming in the middle of what he calls "the Israeli electoral war" he expects the shockwaves from the Hamas win to have a major impact on the Israeli poll scheduled for March 28.
"The right wing will become more powerful than Kadima and Kadima will not survive for long as the right wing accuses Kadima and those who supported the withdrawal for the victory of Hamas," he said.
"They will accuse them with the building of what is called ''Hamasistan'." Burden of power
Regular says the burden of the sudden and overwhelming responsibility for running a state and answering to their constituents' long and varied list of demands will oblige Hamas, who was surprised as anyone by the sweep, to make clear political decisions.
"In the beginning of the intifada, something called Hamasisation happened with Fatah, they became like Hamas; and now Fatahisation will happen to Hamas"Arnon Regular,Israeli political analyst
"Hamas was not ready for a victory. For now there is a kind of political caution and waiting," Regular said.
"Hamas must look for technocratic professionals to form the government in order to succeed," he added.
"In the coming days, Hamas will be obliged take important and clear political decisions: whether to go towards openness as the ruling Islamic party in Turkey, or the Talibani norm in Afghanistan," he said, adding he expect them to take the former route. Regular expects there to be a change in the stance of Hamas, even if not in the near future. "It will take a long time. It will happen with them as what happened with Fatah. In the beginning of the intifada, something called Hamasisation happened with Fatah, they became like Hamas; and now Fatahisation will happen to Hamas."