With a voter turnout of 76.7 percent, the Hamas-backed bloc won 25 seats with 4,481 votes, while the Fatah-supported bloc claimed just 20 seats with 3,539 votes.
The leftist students’ bloc gained 942 votes, winning six seats.
Deep divisions between Fatah and Hamas in the West Bank and Gaza Strip were highlighted by harsh criticism of each other’s policies during intense debates on May 23.
Discussion also focused on their programs to serve students.
Bir Zeit University elections have become a barometer of change in Palestinian public political opinion, with Fatah and Hamas fighting fiercely and spending tens of thousands of dollars to fund electoral campaigns despite the financial crisis.
Hamas criticized Fatah over security coordination with Israel, corruption and the poor performance of President Mahmoud Abbas.
Abbas-led Fatah targeted Hamas over its leaders’ stay in five-star hotels in Qatar despite the financial crisis, and called on its rivals to lift the ban on student council elections in universities of the Gaza Strip.
The Islamic bloc has led the student council in recent years, while the Fatah bloc believes it is paying the price for the mistakes of the Palestinian Authority in terms of corruption, nepotism and security coordination with Israel.
Meanwhile, Hamas won elections held at An-Najah National University in Nablus on May 16 by 40-38, a narrow two-seat margin.
Ghassan Al-Khatib, vice president of Bir Zeit University, told Arab News that in the absence of any other poll, the council vote is a reliable indicator of trends in Palestinian public opinion due to “the credibility, integrity and democracy of the elections.”
As a liberal university, “we aim to accustom our students to democratic life, pluralism and accepting other opinions. Therefore, these elections are considered the best practical exercise for democratic competition,” he said.
Al-Khatib added that the debates were more intense this year compared with previous years, highlighting the students’ skills and intelligence.
“This is an essential day for Bir Zeit University, where competition is intense. It is the only place where one sees freedom of political thought,” he said.
Bir Zeit students are free from any job offers that could influence their votes, and take part in the electoral process in a democratic atmosphere and with great integrity, experts say.
Fatah and Hamas make significant efforts to win the elections, which can help them strengthen their political discourse.
Human rights activist Amer Hamdan from Nablus told Arab News that competition between student blocs in the Palestinian universities remains within the university walls, so is a reasonable indicator of the level of support that Palestinian factions enjoy among the public.
Most students followed their family’s political stance when voting in university elections, he said.
Hamdan said Hamas’ Islamic bloc at Bir Zeit benefited from the mistakes of their Fatah-backed rivals in the An-Najah elections a week ago.
Fatah activists fired in the air in front of the campus, and tried to distort the image of Hamas-bloc candidates on social media, supposedly with the help of Palestinian Authority security services.
Bir Zeit University was established in 1973 as a public, nongovernment university. It is considered one of the oldest reputable Palestinian universities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and has produced prominent political leaders in economics and business administration.
The university is the only place in the West Bank that allows Hamas to promote its activities and politics without restrictions from the Palestinian Authority.
Bir Zeit University offers 36 bachelor’s programs in various disciplines, 13 master’s degree programs, and three Ph.D. programs. It employs 450 teachers.
Students from the West Bank and a few hundred Palestinians living in Israel study there.
Most Palestinian leaders are Bir Zeit University graduates.