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West Bank universities call off elections after president's party suffers embarrassing setback

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RAMALLAH, West Bank — Two West Bank universities have called off upcoming student elections after President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah Party was trounced by the Islamic militant group Hamas in a separate university vote last week.

The Fatah-controlled al-Najah and Hebron universities cited unspecified technical reasons for their decision Tuesday. It was unclear when the vote would be held.

The decision came days after Fatah's defeat at Bir Zeit, the West Bank's most prestigious university. Fatah officials were shocked and embarrassed by the vote, which was seen as a barometer of public opinion in the West Bank.

Fatah is the dominant party in Abbas' Palestinian Authority, which governs the West Bank. Hamas has controlled the Gaza Strip since seizing control of the territory from Abbas' forces in 2007.

Attempts to reconcile the groups have failed.

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