Hamas re-elected on Monday its longtime exiled leader Khaled Meshaal for a new term, officials in the Palestinian Islamic movement said from Cairo.
“The leaders of Hamas chose Meshaal,” a high-ranking official told AFP via telephone from the Egyptian capital, requesting anonymity.
Hamas officials said earlier that the movement's governing shura council was poised to renew Meshaal's leadership for another four years, with one describing his re-election as “widely known.”
Prior to Monday's vote, however, there had been speculation that the exiled leader would be forced aside by the movement's powerful leaders in the Gaza Strip, which it has controlled since 2007.
Meshaal himself had said last year that he would not seek a new term.
But developments in the Middle East since the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011 “pushed Hamas to choose Meshaal...who has given the movement a national face... and has good relations in the Arab world,” one Hamas official said Monday.
Meshaal, 56, is a veteran politician with close ties to regional powers Qatar, Egypt and Turkey. He has been key to Hamas' attempts to break out of its political isolation following its takeover of Gaza in 2007.
Two Hamas officials said Meshaal ran unopposed and was re-elected by a majority in the movement's Shura Council, which is believed to have about 60 members.
Hamas began holding internal elections a year ago, a secretive process spread over several countries, shrouded in mystery and beset by logistics problems.
Hamas has four components - activists in Gaza, in the West Bank, in exile and those imprisoned by Israel. Each of the four groups chooses local leaders as well as delegates to the Shura Council. This council selects a decision-making political bureau and the head of that body - the stage that was wrapped up in Cairo on Monday.
Meshaal became head of the movement in 1996 and will now lead it for another four years.
He is seen as a member of the more pragmatic wing of Hamas, in connection with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.