Ismail Haniyeh, deputy head of the Hamas political bureau, was elected as the new leader of the Hamas political bureau in place of Khaled Mashaal, who announced last year that he would not run for the position again.
According to Palestinian sources, the final candidates, apart from Haniyeh, were senior Hamas figures Musa Abu Marzuq and Hamas member Mohammad Nazzal.
The announcement of Haniyeh as the Hamas leader officially ends the organization's internal and secret elections, which lasted about five months. Haniyeh replaces Mashaal after 21 years.
During the complex election process Yahya Sinwar was appointed Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip and Muhammad Arman was appointed Hamas leader in Israeli prisons. In addition, a Hamas leader was elected in the West Bank, but Hamas did not release his name for fear that he would be immediately arrested by Israel, as well as a Hamas leader abroad whose identity is also traditionally kept secret.
Haniyeh will cooperate with Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip Yahya Sinwar, a senior Hamas official who was released in the Shalit deal, who was elected in February. It is estimated that Mashaal's next role will be the head of Hamas's Shura council (overarching political and decision making body).
Ismail Haniyeh is currently the number two leader of Hamas and the most powerful and dominant Hamas figure in the Gaza Strip. In Hamas, Haniyeh is considered a very charismatic figure, a leader with the ability to sweep an audience with fiery speeches, a man who can emphasize and market his humble way of life.
Haniyeh created a network of contacts and trusts with the other Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip, headed by Islamic Jihad. He is a well-known figure in Qatar (the main donor to the Gaza Strip), Turkey (Hamas's main Islamic patron today) and even Iran.
(Translated and edited by N. Elias)