Hamas leaders and supporters in Gaza Strip celebrated Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood presidential victory, according to preliminary results announced on Monday.
The Islamist bloc’s candidate Mohammed Mursi claimed he had won the election over former prime minister Ahmed Shafiq in the early hours of Monday, in line with primary results that were announced later that day.
Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zohri said that the result, which will be officially announced by the electoral body on Thursday, is a victory for the Egyptian people, its martyrs and the uprising which ousted former president Hosni Mubarak last year.
But perhaps more significantly for Hamas, an Islamist group born from the Muslim Brotherhood which controls the Gaza Strip, Zohri said that Mursi’s win will help break the siege on Gaza and support the Palestinian cause, especially on the issue of the disputed Jerusalem.
Mursi amassed 13.2 million votes, according to Al Arabiya TV, citing the primary vote counts, which resulted in a 51.8 percent win – against 12.3 million for Shafiq.
Initial results contain a margin of error of about two percentage points, meaning the result may be premature.
In related news, Ismail Haniyeh, prime minister of the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, also praised the Islamists’ preliminary win.
“We, the Palestinian people, follow the political scene in Egypt. We pin great hopes upon the Egyptian leadership, revolution, army, people and presidency to bolster the resistance of the Palestinian people, which has looked to Egypt throughout history,” Haniyeh said.
“We hope that Egypt enjoys stability, security and safety and we are still waiting for the official results of the presidential election.”
Mursi’s victory is widely welcomed by many in Gaza, who see it as the first step in the ending of the six-year siege of Gaza, and a great stride for the Palestinian struggle.
However, for Palestinian leaders in the occupied West Bank, success for the secular Shafiq would bolster them in their interminable struggle with Hamas.
Earlier this month, a prominent Egyptian cleric said at a presidential campaign rally that if Mursi were to win, Jerusalem would become the new capital of Egypt.
“Our capital shall not be Cairo, Mecca or Medina. It shall be Jerusalem with God’s will. Our chants shall be: ‘millions of martyrs will march towards Jerusalem’,” Safwat Hagazy said, according to the video aired by Egypt’s religious Annas TV.
“The United States of the Arabs will be restored on the hands of that man [Mursi] and his supporters. The capital of the [Muslim] Caliphate will be Jerusalem with God’s will,” Hegazy said, as the crowds cheered, waving the Egyptian flags along with the flags of the Islamist Hamas group, which rules the Gaza Strip.
“Tomorrow Mursi will liberate Gaza,” the crowds chanted.
From Israel’s perspective, one of Mubarak’s great advantages was that he helped maintain a tough blockade on Gaza. Hamas hopes a Mursi presidency would loosen the economic shackles of a boycott Israel says is meant to stop the flow of arms to Gaza.
The Palestinian cause has also attracted comments from al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri on Sunday, who urged Egypt to cancel its peace treaty with Israel and to establish Islamic rule.
He said the goal is to stop Israel from turning Jerusalem into a Jewish city, in an audio recording posted on jihadi websites.