Analysis: Fatah Congress could reveal next Palestinian president

Approximately 1,400 Fatah members from the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and Palestinian diaspora will convene at the Congress to elect leaders to the movement’s top two leadership bodies.

November 28, 2016 20:09
2 minute read.
Palestinian president Abbas stands between PM Haniyeh and senior Fatah leader Dahlan in Gaza

Palestinian president Abbas stands between PM Haniyeh and senior Fatah leader Dahlan in Gaza. (photo credit: SUHAIB SALEM / REUTERS)

All eyes are focused on Ramallah this week as Fatah moves to convene its 7th General Congress, a meeting that could be the first of many steps in the succession process for Palestinian Authority president.

Approximately 1,400 Fatah members from the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Palestinian diaspora will convene to elect leaders to the movement’s top two leadership bodies, the Central Committee and the Revolutionary Council, and set a strategy for the coming years.

The congress also reportedly will appoint one of the members elected to the Central Committee as deputy chairman of Fatah.

While such a member would only serve as such, analysts have said that a forthcoming meeting of the Palestinian National Council (PNC), the PLO’s legislature, could create a PA vice president position and appoint the deputy Fatah chairman to that role.

If the PLO appoints the deputy Fatah chairman as PA vice president, it seemingly would pave the way for such a leader to assume the reins of the PA presidency should President Mahmoud Abbas die in office.

According to Palestinian basic law, the chairman of the PA legislature, Aziz Dweik, a Hamas parliamentarian currently in Israeli prison, would become acting president until elections are held.

Yet, Fatah leaders argue that such a mechanism is null and void because the parliament has not officially convened since 2007.

Thus, it appears that a PA vice president position would allow for a Fatah leader to assume the presidency if elections cannot be held and the division between Hamas and Fatah have made it difficult for the PA to hold nationwide presidential elections.

The congress also comes amid increased tensions between Abbas and his self-exiled rival Mohammad Dahlan.

Dahlan and his associates hold that the congress is intended to remove them from leadership positions in Fatah and have described it “as destructive and exclusionary.”

Palestinian parliamentarian Jihad Tummaleh, who Abbas ousted from Fatah in late October for his alleged ties to Dahlan, said on Monday that he and other Fatah members critical of the Abbas’s leadership will not recognize the results of the congress.

‘’We won’t recognize the decisions. This is an exclusionary conference. The results of the conference are not legitimate, including the election of the central committee,” Tummaleh said.

Dahlan, Tummaleh and many other Fatah members critical of Abbas’s leadership did not receive invitations to the congress, practically removing their influence from Fatah’s leadership bodies.

Tummaleh added that the congress could further entrench divisions in Fatah. “This will contribute to the splitting of Fatah. It will create people who are frustrated and angry,” he said. “Those excluded who were members in the sixth conference will be angry. Those punished unjustly like me and dozens of others will be angry. This creates a state of frustration.”

Yet, Fatah leaders have said they believe Dahlan’s opposition will no longer be an issue after the congress, and plan to move forward with the meeting of the PNC directly afterward.

Husam Zomlot, Abbas’s adviser for strategic affairs, told official PA television on Saturday that “the 7th Fatah Congress is the congress of hope and work.”

“We are going to hold the congress and then going to complete what we started [in establishing an independent Palestinian state], but with different tools and new bodies, and the strengthening of popular resistance,” Zomlot said.

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