I went to sleep last night hearing that Fatah won the elections, with Hamas making a strong showing. Today, the news is that Hamas won.
The question is why would Palestinians vote for Hamas knowing that a Hamas victory would probably lead to severe international repercussions? Well, it's probably a mixture of a few factors. For some, Hamas represents a religious government and they feel an obligation to vote for Islam. Others believe that Fatah has done nothing for them and they want to give Hamas a chance. A few more might want to stick it to Israel and the world community and show that Palestinians are not influenced by pressure. And, of course, some are just lunatics who want to see Israel destroyed and see Hamas as the party best capable of carrying that out.
Is a Hamas victory a bad thing for Israel? Maybe not. On one hand it forecloses any option of negotiations in the near future, making peace more difficult. However it removes the pressure from the US and EU to work with the PA (both of which consider Hamas a terrorist organization). It also gives Israel a real excuse to retaliate against the PA whenever a terrorist attack occurs. Until now they blamed the PA for not stopping terror; now they can hold it responsible for carrying it out.
So Hamas in charge is really beneficial for Israel only if you believe that Fatah was not going to make peace with Israel in the near future. Israel was being pressured to work with Abbas, who either couldn't or wouldn't fight terror. Now, there will be no more pressure, and Israel will have an easier time responding to terrorist attacks.
On another note, how will Hamas' victory affect Israel's elections? I would have to guess it would help the right and really hurt the left, unless they change their platform. Not too many people in Israel are going to vote for a party that wants to give territory over to Hamas. I foresee the Israeli electorate moving to the right, with Likud and the far right parties picking up some seats at Labor's (and maybe Kadima's) cost.
Last point: Does anyone know what happens to Abbas now? He is President of the PA. Do legislative elections have anything to do with the executive branch? Or is the PA system more similar to Israel? Does anyone know? Are there even rules for this?