Buoyed by a series of victories in elections for student councils and
professional unions, Fatah representatives over the weekend urged Palestinian
Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to replace Prime Minister Salam Fayyad with a
In the past few weeks, supporters of Fatah scored major
victories in elections for student councils at four universities in the West
Bank: Bir Zeit University north of Ramallah, Bethlehem University, Al-Quds
University in Abu Dis and Hebron University.
Fatah supporters also won a
majority of seats at three West Bank colleges.
Martyr Yasser Arafat bloc won 25 of the 51 student council seats at Bir Zeit
University, giving it full control over the body.
al-Wafa list took 19 seats.
At Bethlehem University, Fatah supporters won
18 seats, while Hamas’s Watan bloc got 13.
In addition, Fatah lists won
elections for professional and workers unions in Lebanon, Jordan and the United
The victories are seen by Fatah as a vote of confidence in
Abbas and the faction’s policies and strategy.
Fatah also views the
results as a major blow to Hamas and other opposition groups that are critical
of Abbas and his ruling faction in the West Bank.
Tensions between Abbas
and Fayyad intensified after the latter refused to deliver the PA president’s
letter to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu two weeks ago.
officials in the West Bank have since stepped up pressure on Abbas to dismiss
Fayyad and appoint a Fatah figure as head of a new government.
Abbas is facing growing pressure to replace Fayyad with a Fatah prime minister,”
said a source close to the PA president. “The recent victories that Fatah scored
in university elections show that Fatah continues to enjoy the support of a majority of Palestinians.”
Fayyad, who is not a member of
Fatah, heads a list called Third Way that won only two seats in the January 2006
Fayyad’s refusal to deliver the letter to
Netanyahu deeply embarrassed Abbas, said a Fatah official in Ramallah.
a bid to ease tensions, Abbas and Fayyad met for three hours last Tuesday, the
official added. The official refused to say whether the two men managed to solve
the crisis during the meeting, which he described as “friendly and
The dispute between Abbas and Fayyad also revolves around the
PA president’s declared intention to carry out a cabinet reshuffle, the official
According to the Fatah official, Abbas faces pressure from his
supporters to take away the Finance Ministry from Fayyad.
countries have warned Abbas not to remove Fayyad or cut his powers, a Western
diplomat based in Israel told The Jerusalem Post last week. The diplomat said
the donors have made it clear to Abbas that any measure against Fayyad would
affect international funding for the PA.
“Fatah’s recent victories are a
sign of widespread public support for President Abbas and Fatah,” said Fatah
spokesman Ahmed Assaf. “This is a vote of confidence in Fatah, President Abbas
and the entire leadership of the Palestinian people.”
Assad said that
Hamas’s defeat, on the other hand, was an indication of the movement’s failure
in various fields. He added that contradictory statements by Hamas, especially
regarding “resistance attacks” against Israel, were also behind the decline in
the movement’s popularity.
“On the one hand, Hamas talks about the need
to continue the resistance,” he pointed out.
“But on the other hand,
Hamas is not doing anything to resist the occupation.”
political columnist Adel Abdel Rahman dismissed Hamas claims about forgery in
the recent elections for universities, colleges and professional
“Hamas’s claims are the product of bankruptcy in defending their
defeat and failure,” Abdel Rahman explained. “Hamas is lacking credibility among
Palestinians and the easiest way is to resort to forging the facts and
Abdel Rahman and many Palestinians said that the results of
the elections were a “victory for Fatah and its political and national
Hamas and its supports said the Fatah victories were the
result of a security clampdown by the PA and Israel on students in various West
“How can true representative elections be free when
each and every student voting for the Islamic bloc could immediately be arrested
and dumped behind bars for open-ended incarceration?” asked Palestinian
journalist and analyst Khaled Amayreh, who is a staunch opponent of
“The fear is not phobic or unfounded. Dozens of student leaders
have already been arrested by the Israeli army for taking part in student
activities supportive of the Islamic bloc. A student who wanted to vote for the
Islamist bloc would have to be mindful of the risks and implications awaiting
him, including administrative detention in Israeli jails, or prolonged detention
in PA jails, or both.”
Hani Muqbel, a Hamas official in the Gaza Strip,
said that supporters of his movement in the West Bank have found themselves
“between the Israeli anvil and Palestinian Authority anvil.”
security forces, he said, banned Hamas supporters from holding pre-election
rallies on university campuses and summoned student leaders for
Hamas legislator Fathi Qarawi said that Hamas’s mere
participation in the university elections was a “positive sign and a challenge
to the Palestinian Authority security forces and Israel.” He said that Fatah’s
attempt to depict the results of the elections as a major defeat for Hamas were