For those inclined to fight Israel, even that appeal was lost as Hamas has mostly stuck to a truce in recent years.
On the streets of Gaza, bitterness seems prevalent.
"I am not saying Fatah was better, but when I voted for Hamas I voted for change," said Fahmi Khamis, 42, a vendor who sells made-in-China household goods in Gaza City's outdoor market. "This did not happen. Instead, we lost a lot."
June marked five years since Hamas violently seized Gaza in a brief civil war - a year after winning 2006 parliamentary elections and following an effort at joint rule with Fatah.
From the moment Hamas seized Gaza from Arafat's successor, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Israel and Egypt sealed the territory's borders and much of the world boycotted the Islamists for refusing to renounce violence and recognize Israel. The economy hobbled along, relying on blockade-evading smuggling tunnels under the Egyptian border, support from a U.N. aid agency that serves two-thirds of the population, Iranian largesse, and continued salary transfers from the Abbas government in the West Bank for tens of thousands of pro-Fatah civil servants who were paid not to work for Hamas.
Today, the blockade - though eased slightly in the last two years - continues to prevent economic recovery and slows down badly needed infrastructure projects, such as sewage treatment plants. The per capita GDP is 17 percent lower than seven years ago and 90 percent of drinking water is unfit for consumption without treatment, according to U.N. figures. One-third of the workforce is unemployed.
At the same time, the black-market economy and unchallenged one-party rule have created a new wealthy class. Lack of oversight over millions of dollars in annual aid from Iran and private Arab donors has fueled rumors of official corruption. Tunnel smugglers are seen driving around in fancy cars.
Government spokesman Hassan Abu Hashish said Gaza's Hamas leaders are as frugal as when they ran an underground movement.
"We are talking about clean-handed leaders," he said. "They have stayed in their homes in the alleys of refugee camps and in their old neighborhoods and drive old cars that were used for years by the previous government."
Hamas has set up a well-oiled bureaucracy with 24,000 civil servants and a 16,000-strong security force, whose salaries gobble up more than half of the 2012 budget of $769 million, leaving little for services. Only $174 million is expected from local revenue, but Hamas remains tight-lipped about where it gets the rest.
The U.N. Relief and Works Agency shoulders much of the burden, providing medical care, schooling, and food supplements to the descendants of those displaced by Israel's 1948 creation, a large majority of Gazans. Half of Gaza's children attend U.N.-run schools.
Hamas has refrained from passing sweeping Islamic legislation, apparently fearing a public backlash. Firebrands in the movement have tried to push the boundaries whenever they see an opening, ordering female lawyers to cover their hair in court, preventing women from riding on the backs of motorcycles, and demanding they not smoke water pipe in public. However, such edicts are rarely enforced for long.
There is a marked Islamic shift, but Gazans say it comes more from social pressure instigated by Hamas loyalists than direct official coercion. Only a few teenage girls dare to attend school without head scarves, fearing the disapproval of teachers and peers, but there is no formal rule to cover up.
But in education, Hamas abandoned early attempts to Islamize the curriculum when it became clear that Gaza high school degrees would only be accepted by foreign universities if endorsed by the West Bank government, said West Bank government spokesman Ghassan Khatib.
Hamas has systematically silenced dissent. Fatah activists have borne the brunt, mirroring similar crackdowns on Hamas in the West Bank where authoritarian tendencies have also increased. Hamas has also shut down independent media, harassed journalists and prevented some gatherings viewed as undermining its absolute control.
Gazans, many struggling to feed their families and forced to endure hours-long power cuts every day, still feel free to gripe to relatives and friends about life under the Islamists, generally without fear of arrest. However, advancement in government jobs and business opportunities are largely reserved for Hamas loyalists.
On the positive side, many Gazans agree that the government has managed to restore a sense of personal safety, after years of internal strife and deadly clashes with Israel, including a full-blown war three years ago.
And despite the blockade, the Hamas government has launched several ambitious public works projects.
As things stand now, it seems Hamas can run Gaza for many more years.