The Palestinian militant group Hamas has clinched a sweeping victory over the ruling Fatah party, in a move which has left much of the international community stunned.
Observers have praised the election process
The BBC News website asked its panel of Palestinian voters what they thought of the outcome of the elections and what it means for the future of the Palestinian people.
Mona el-Farra, doctor, Gaza
Ghassan Abdullah, co-ordinator, Ramallah
Hatem Shurrab, graduate, Gaza
L Hourani, NGO worker, Gaza
Fathi Tobail, information worker, Gaza
MONA EL-FARRA, DOCTOR, GAZA
I'm very shocked. I had expected a victory for Hamas but not on this level. I thought that perhaps a coalition would be created but now we have one party - Hamas instead of Fatah.
I was hoping my party [Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine list] would win but they only got a few seats.
Hamas have worked hard in the last 10 years. They were transparent and committed to their beliefs and this is what people like. This is democracy and we have to accept it.
But I worry about the Islamisation effect on our education and social programmes. I also worry about the freedom of women.
Admittedly, the Hamas women worked hard over the election period and were very committed. They were the hardcore of the party which is something I admire. But I still remain fearful.
I worry in the immediate future about violence and trouble in Gaza between Fatah and Hamas supporters, although I expect they will negotiate.
Of course I also fear that Israel could try to cancel our election result. I think the result will definitely push Israel to the right more, especially as Hamas will continue their resistance.
Maybe in the future Hamas will negotiate through a third party - perhaps the Americans.
Hopefully, their truce will continue. I will keep doing the work I do work on a grassroots level for change.
GHASSAN ABDULLAH, CO-ORDINATOR, RAMALLAH, WEST BANK
I am almost too depressed to think about the results. Here in Ramallah I did not feel like going back to work. In many places, even in the Palestinian ministries, nobody is in the mood to work.
At the moment the top Fatah people say they will not form a coalition but it is probably just their opening position.
My first reaction is let Hamas see how hard it is to govern and how hard it is to deal with our terrible economic situation and our relations with the West.
This was a protest vote against Fatah and the peace process
Our ministries are still mostly manned by Fatah people and Hamas will find it difficult. There will have to be co-operation between the parties although some Fatah people will not want this.
The Israelis are probably happy about the victory. First they had the "Arafat was corrupt" excuse, then the weakness of Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] and now Hamas will give them an excuse to keep grabbing more land and strangling our society.
Hamas throw many slogans around but it is not enough to repeat these slogans ad nauseam. What are they going to do on the ground with such Israeli intransigence?
I also think this was a protest vote against Fatah and the peace process.
HATEM SHURRAB, GRADUATE, GAZA
I am very glad about the win. As someone who voted for Hamas I believe they will end the corruption which has spread in the past few years.
There are some seats for other parties such as the Third Way, which is good as it shows how important it is for other parties to participate.
I have many friends who voted for Fatah, they are a little sad but I feel it is a lesson to wake up and see what is going on.
Fatah were good but in the past five years they went downhill. Now Hamas are moving to the political wing and aiming to change. They are going to be more diplomatic and I am glad they will have to be more moderate and not so oppressive.
Hamas can now use negotiations to deal with the issues in our society - Jerusalem, the right of return and our prisoners. Fatah forgot about these things.
I do not think Hamas feel that negotiations with Israel are shameful. Hamas could negotiate through a third party such as Europe.
It is like cleaning my house when the house and the street are dirty. You start with the house and move on to the street - just as here we will clean Palestine of corruption then deal with outside issues and create a state.
LAMA HOURANI, NGO WORKER, GAZA
I am very disappointed, but I must state that Wednesday was a real democratic day for Palestine.
Everyone was proud of the way the Palestinians respected all the procedures with no main incidents.
Hamas fielded several women candidates
It is obvious from the results it has been very transparent. I had expected the two powers to have much of the vote but no-one expected a Hamas majority - I do not even think Hamas expected it.
Why the success? We have to blame the occupation. Successive Israeli governments have worked on the destruction of the Palestinian Authority's infrastructure.
And by saying during the campaign that they would not negotiate with Hamas it made people feel someone was imposing on them who they should vote for. The US were the same.
The Palestinians also want to punish the PA because of their corruption and their way of negotiation with the Israelis.
Israel can now use the "terrorists" excuse not to negotiate. They will say "look who the Palestinians elected, why should we give them a state?"
All parties now must re-evaluate their work, rebuild their parties and start working amongst the people again.
As a woman who does not want to live under Hamas' social values I could emigrate, but I will stay to struggle and fight for democracy.
FATHI TOBAIL, GOVERNMENT INFORMATION WORKER, GAZA CITY
Personally, I am shocked about the results. But the people have made a choice. We are democratic and free to express our views, unlike other parts of the Arab world.
We have shown that an election can change a government and that the people have the right to change their leadership.
I think Fatah will still press for a coalition to help the political situation.
Ultimately, Hamas must come to the negotiating table
Hamas now has four years to run a proper government and look after all affairs, but I think a coalition is a must because of Fatah's expertise in such matters.
There is so much pressure from the international arena - particularly the US - that there must be peaceful negotiations with the Israelis.
People are a bit gloomy here at the moment as for many the results were so unexpected, but things will go on.
Ultimately, Hamas must come to the negotiating table. They have said they will negotiate through a third party which is not quite logical. The person you need to negotiate with is next door to you - you must negotiate yourself.
Still, in the past few months Hamas have been more pragmatic, despite their ideological system.