Birzeit Student Elections 2005: A Democratic Tradition Continues

(Graphic: Nigel Parry/EI)

12 April 2005 — During the past week, slogans have been chanted; flags of all colors raised; red, green, black and white have adorned the campus and a general excitement imbued Birzeit University as students took part in the annual Student Council elections. On April 7th and 9th, the five student blocs participating in this year’s elections: Martyr Yasser Arafat Bloc; Islamic Loyalists Bloc; Islamic Group Bloc; United Students’ Pole Bloc; Students’ Platform Bloc, presented their electoral campaigns through campaign-promise-filled speeches, marches in the center of the University campus, songs and theatrical skits.

Every year there is wide interest in Birzeit University student elections as they are seen as a good indicator of the political balance of power in the larger society. And with the Palestinian Legislative Council elections only weeks away, this year’s BZU student council elections have become even more significant. The student groups represent the array of Palestinian political groups with the exception of the Student Platform, which presented itself as an independent student group with no political affiliations and interested only in dealing with student union issues.

On April 11th, a debate was held among the five groups. At first, each student group was given 5 minutes to present their electoral programs. Afterwards, student blocs were given three minutes to discuss each of the major issues proposed by Dr. Munir Qazzaz, Dean of Student Affairs and Head of the Elections Preparatory Committee. The issues proposed this year were Academic Standards, Freedom of Speech, and Extra-curricular Activities at Birzeit University.

The student elections were held on April 12th, 2005. Voting stations were set up in the Science, Engineering, Commerce and Kamal Nasir Hall Buildings. Students could vote by presenting their student ID at the entrance of the voting stations which were monitored by student, faculty and staff observers.

A total of 4,441 students voted in the elections out of a total of 5,446 undergraduate students at Birzeit University that make up the electorate. 31 papers were cancelled and 59 were submitted with no vote.

The Student Council is comprised of 51 seats elected on the basis of proportional representation according to the number of votes each group receives. The Martyr Yasser Arafat Bloc won the largest number of votes gaining them 23 seats on this year’s student council.

Student Block # of votes # of seats
Martyr Yasser Arafat 1,947 23
Islamic Loyalists 1,853 22
Islamic Group 132 1
United Students’ Pole 265 3
Students’ Platform 151 2

The Birzeit Student committees have been around since Birzeit was a two-year college and Student Council elections have been convened at Birzeit University since 1979, except during years when the University was closed down by Israeli military order or when the Israeli occupation attacks against the University made the conducting of elections impossible.

Despite the various difficulties the University faces, it remains adamant about maintaining the long tradition of conducting democratic elections among the student body. The Student Council elections not only provide the student body with elected representatives to address the needs and requests of the University students, but they also instill students with needed skills to take part in the development of a democratic society once they graduate, the very mission of Birzeit University.

Founded in 1921, Birzeit University strives to promote excellence in higher education by providing quality academic teaching, training, research and relevant community programs within the context of sustainable development, emphasizing social conscience and democratic values in a free civil Palestinian society.

Related Links

  • Birzeit University
  • Birzeit Diary - from A Personal Diary of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict by Nigel Parry