Official: PA chairman would "take into consideration" elections results.
By KHALED ABU TOAMEHPalestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas will "take into consideration" the results of the recent primary elections in his ruling Fatah party when he chooses candidates for next January's parliamentary vote, but he was not obligated to fully endorse these results, senior PA officials in Ramallah said on Tuesday.
"These results will be viewed only as a barometer," said one official. "President Abbas does not necessarily have to endorse the results as they are."
Another official said that the Fatah leadership would have the final say with regards to the identities of the candidates who will run in the parliamentary elections.
Representatives of the young guard in Fatah have scored major victories in the Fatah primary elections, which were held in a number of areas in the West Bank and Gaza Strip over the past 10 days. The victory is seen as a severe blow to veteran Fatah leaders who have long been accused of monopolizing power and refusing to allow younger activists to take a part in decision-making.
The power-struggle led to a series of violent incidents during the voting, as well as allegations of massive fraud and attempts to disrupt the process.
By refusing to endorse the results, Abbas is taking the risk of further alienating grassroots activists belonging to Fatah, who are now openly challenging the party's old guard.
Amin Makboul, a top Fatah operative from Nablus, said that Fatah did not prepare well for the elections. "We didn't have enough time to prepare for the elections," he said. "Neither did we have a clear strategy. That's why there were many problems at the ballot boxes."
Abbas, according to some of his aides, is "seething with anger" because of the chaos and violence that accompanied the primary vote. During a meeting with Fatah officials in Ramallah, Abbas reportedly said: "This is not the way to conduct elections. What happened during these elections indicates that Fatah could lose in the parliamentary elections."
Abbas was also quoted as saying that not all those candidates "who won or lost" the primary elections are qualified to run in the parliamentary vote. He warned that if Fatah is defeated in the parliamentary elections, it will not be because Hamas has become so strong, but because of the continued infighting inside the ruling party.
Former PA minister Nabil Amr, who ran in the primary elections in the Hebron area last week, said that "in light of the massive voting fraud and irregularities, especially in the Hebron area, President Abbas has decided to regard the results only as an indication of trends. I believe there will be some who will support this and others who will oppose it."
Amr, who lost the Hebron elections to PA National Security Advisor Jibril Rajoub, said he had been "deeply offended" by the bad performance of Fatah in the primary elections. "Fatah must now work hard to repair its image," he added.
Nasser Laham, a Palestinian journalist from Bethlehem, said that the Fatah leadership was now in a very difficult position. "Whatever decision the Fatah leadership takes, it will leave behind many scars that are likely to affect the parliamentary elections," he remarked.
"In Hebron, the candidates are fighting over who should be first on the [Fatah] list," he pointed out. "In Nablus, there have been many protests, and the cars of a number of officials have been set on fire. In Halhoul [near Hebron], there have been shooting incidents, and in Salfit [near Nablus] ballot boxes have been torched. In Bethlehem and Jenin, many are questioning the fairness of the voting. Now many veteran Fatah leaders who lost are threatening to contest the vote in independent lists, to tease the winners."