Infighting likely to harm Fatah’s chances of winning election

Dozens of Fatah activists throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip have threatened to run as independents if they are excluded from the official Fatah list.

Senior Fatah official Mohammed Shtayyeh gestures during a Palestinian leadership meeting in Ramallah, in the West Bank February 20, 2019 (photo credit: REUTERS/MOHAMAD TOROKMAN)
Senior Fatah official Mohammed Shtayyeh gestures during a Palestinian leadership meeting in Ramallah, in the West Bank February 20, 2019
(photo credit: REUTERS/MOHAMAD TOROKMAN)
Egypt has invited representatives of several Palestinian factions to a meeting in Cairo to discuss preparations for the upcoming Palestinian general election, amid mounting tensions in the ruling Fatah faction headed by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Palestinian sources said that the factions, including Fatah and Hamas, would focus on security, logistical and technical issues related to the election during their talks in Cairo. No date has been set for the discussions, due to take place under the auspices of Egypt’s General Intelligence Service.
The election for the parliament, known as the Palestinian Legislative Council, has been set for May 22. The election for the PA presidency will take place on July 31, to be followed a month later by a vote for the PLO’s legislative body, the Palestinian National Council.
Two weeks after Abbas announced the election, no individuals or lists have presented their candidacy as of Thursday.
Dozens of Fatah activists throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip have threatened to run as independents if they are excluded from the official Fatah list.
The activists are demanding that the old-guard leaders of Fatah pave the way for the rise of fresh and younger representatives. “We don’t want to be marginalized again,” said a Fatah activist from Bethlehem. “If we present the same faces, Fatah will again be defeated.”
Fatah lost the 2006 parliamentary election to Hamas, mainly due to divisions among the faction’s leaders and cadres.
PA officials told The Jerusalem Post two weeks ago that deposed Fatah operative Mohammed Dahlan, an archrival of the 85-year-old Abbas, would not be allowed to run for the presidential election because he was a “convicted criminal.” In 2016, a PA court in Ramallah sentenced Dahlan in absentia to three years in prison for the alleged embezzlement of millions of dollars.
Dahlan, 59, is currently based in the United Arab Emirates, where he reportedly serves as special adviser to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed.
Dahlan loyalists in the West Bank and Gaza Strip said that they are planning to participate in the parliamentary election, preferably as part of a unified Fatah list. The loyalists threatened that if they are not included in a Fatah list, they would run on independent lists, a move that could drive many voters toward Fatah’s rivals, specifically Hamas.
ALSO THURSDAY, there were conflicting reports about the plans of jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti.
Some Fatah leaders, including Qadoura Fares, said that Barghouti – who is serving five life terms for his role in terror activities during the Second Intifada – has yet to decide whether he wants to contest the presidential election. Other Fatah leaders claimed that the 61-year-old Barghouti has indicated his desire to run for the PA presidency.
Barghouti headed the Fatah list that lost the election to Hamas in 2006.
A public opinion poll published last month by the Ramallah-based Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research found that if Barghouti forms an independent list he would receive 25% of the vote, as opposed to 19% for the official Fatah list.
But if Dahlan forms an independent list he would receive only 7% of the vote, as opposed to 27% for the official Fatah list. The poll further showed that two-thirds of respondents demanded the resignation of Abbas.
At a meeting of the Fatah “Revolutionary Council” in Ramallah earlier this week, Abbas reportedly expressed concern over mounting tensions in Fatah ahead of the election. He warned that Fatah candidates who break away from the official list would be expelled from Fatah, a senior party official told the Post.
Azzam al-Ahmed, a member of the Fatah Central Committee, said that the meetings in Cairo would discuss ways of ensuring the success of the electoral process. He told the PA’s official newspaper, Al-Ayyam, that once Fatah and Hamas reach an agreement to solve their differences, they would proceed to discuss details related to the elections, including security-related issues.
Meanwhile, the Palestinian Central Elections Commission has begun training its staff in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in preparation for the elections. The commission has held training sessions for 120 newly appointed employees in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.