As Fatah and Hamas fight neck and neck for the most seats in the Palestinian Legislative Council elections, polls say that - much like the Israeli system - neither of the two juggernauts in Palestinian politics will be able to capture a majority due to the plethora of smaller parties also competing. In all, there are 11 party lists formed of political parties, coalitions, and independents running for the 66 seats (out of the 132 in total) which are apportioned to the national party lists. Though the remaining nine party lists are not well known, the leading figures on some of them were active in Palestinian politics for many years. The following is a profile of three. The voting threshold for representation in the PLC is two percent.
List #1, The Alternative, polling at 2%
A coalition of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, The People's Party, Fida, and independent candidates, The Alternative list stands for "a democratic alternative to the present state of corruption and chaos," said Qais Karim Khadir, the No. 1 on the list and a member of the PFLP.
"We call for a wide democratic alliance to form a third current strong enough to act as an equilibrium between Hamas and Fatah," Khadir told The Jerusalem Post in an interview.
It is the Alternative's goal, he said, to create a national consensus among all the Palestinian parties and to convince Hamas and Fatah to join a national coalition government which "fights corruption, brings down unemployment and relieves poverty."
Regarding Israel, this list calls for a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders with a recourse for Palestinian refugees according to United Nations Resolution 194. Negotiations for a peace agreement should take place in an international conference supervised by the UN, Khadir said.
The coalition does not support "operations that target civilians and acts against innocent people" west of the Green Line, Khadir said. But it "believes Palestinian resistance has the right to continue as long as the occupation continues."
While he said that resistance could include violent acts against Israelis in the West Bank, Khadir said that his list was more interested in "mass action and mass struggle."
List #7, The National Coalition for Justice and Democracy (Wa'ad), polling at just under 2%
Led by Gaza psychiatrist Dr. Eyad El-Sarraj, the Wa'ad party platform is based on the respect of human rights, the rule of law, and a reform of the Palestinian security forces.
"What we need is law and order," El-Sarraj said in an interview with the Post. "We want to see [the security forces] dismantled and restructured. We don't need multiple security forces that are useless."
If Wa'ad can surpass 2%, El-Sarraj, who also heads a group of Palestinian and Israeli academics working toward a peace agreement, said it will work with any party that agrees with its platform. Being a partner with Fatah, which he said has governed the PA "absolutely miserably in all aspects of life," would depend on which of its candidates were elected.
Though enthusiastic about working with Hamas, which El-Sarraj sees as a "clean organization," he said the Islamic party must first "clearly commit themselves to not using [terrorism] again" and to disarming its military wing.
"Once they become part of the political community, there will be no tolerance for private militias," he said.
Wa'ad's platform calls for the implementation of the road map outlined by President Bush and a negotiated peace agreement which leads to an independent Palestinian state. As a consultant to the Palestinian negotiating team at Camp David, El-Sarraj advised Yassir Arafat to take the deal offered by Ehud Barak, he said, describing the deceased Palestinian leader's choice as a "colossal mistake." However he blames Ehud Barak and Ariel Sharon, as well as Arafat, for the years of violence that ensued.
List #8, The Third Way, polling at just over 2%
Headed by former PA Finance Minister Dr. Salam Fayyad, the Third Way believes the political and legal rights of the Palestinian people are inseparable from the socioeconomic progress and democratic improvements called for in its platform.
Building democratic institutions, enacting the rule of law, and bringing fundamental rights and freedom to Palestinians requires "people of integrity which will pursue reform to force these issues," party list No. 2 Dr. Hanan Ashrawi told the Post.
Unemployment, poor health care, and a feeling of alienation among "disempowered groups such as women, youth, and the disabled" are all problems The Third Way is seeking to rectify, she said.
But it all starts with reform, Ashrawi said, characterizing the current state of the PA as one where lawlessness, corruption, and abuse of power are common.
If it meets the 2% threshold, the Third Way would not necessarily join in a coalition with either Fatah or Hamas, Ashrawi said. "We don't believe in the politicization of Islam, and we don't want Fatah because we don't want to go backward," she said.
The Third Way calls for the PA security forces to be amalgamated into three groups: police and preventative security, intelligence, and national security.
It also calls for regulations imposed on those forces that require a change of leadership every four years, and bar serving members from political work and from appropriating money.
Where the peace process is concerned, the Third Way supports the Saudi initiative, which would see all the Arab countries normalize relations with Israel in exchange for a return to the 1967 borders.
It prefers a multilateral negotiation process led by the Quartet.
"Israel has ignored its obligations under the road map," Ashrawi said, and it is appropriate to "blame the stronger side when the moderate voices on the weaker side are being undermined."
Polling numbers are according to the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research poll conducted December 29-31.