All Fatah's Gaza leaders quit over vote

Top reps cite massive fraud; Qurei: "Forgery in Palestine" worse than during Iran's elections.

abbas fatah convention 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
abbas fatah convention 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
Fatah appeared to be in turmoil on Thursday as a large number of its top representatives questioned the credibility of the elections that were held earlier this week for the faction's Central Committee. Former Palestinian Authority prime minister Ahmed Qurei (Abu Ala) dropped a bombshell when he announced that the forgery in Iran's recent presidential election was nothing compared to what happened in Fatah. Qurei, who failed to be reelected to the Central Committee, said that there was growing discontent in Fatah over the alleged fraud. "There are many big question marks about the election, the way it was conducted and the way the votes were counted," Qurei told the London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper. "There were behind-the-scenes arrangements that removed some names and added others to the [winning] list." Pointing out that three of the candidates who were elected were former security commanders who used to work closely with Israel, Qurei asked: "Was it by coincidence that these men won?" He said that the election of these candidates - Jibril Rajoub, Muhammad Dahlan and Tawfik Tirawi - showed that "someone wants to see rubber stamps" among the Fatah leadership. "This is a harsh and difficult phase and there are offers for a temporary state without Jerusalem and the refugees," Qurei said. "Apparently there are some people who have taken this into consideration." Qurei hinted that PA President Mahmoud Abbas and some of his loyalists had intervened to secure spots for their supporters in the Central Committee. Earlier, every member of Fatah's Higher Committee in the Gaza Strip submitted their resignations, in protest against what one of them described as "massive fraud" in the election for the Central Committee. The resignations are seen as a serious embarrassment for Abbas and Fatah, whose representatives in the Gaza Strip have suffered one blow after another since Hamas seized control of the area two years ago. "The Fatah leaders in the Gaza Strip reject the results of the vote," said Ahmed Abu Nasr, a senior Fatah official. "These elections have damaged Fatah's reputation." He added that dozens of Fatah delegates from the Strip who were denied the right to cast their ballots were demanding the establishment of a commission of inquiry to look into their allegations. Many Fatah members were shocked late Wednesday when they discovered that one of Abbas's old-time colleagues, Tayeb Abdel Rahim, was added to the list of winners at the last minute. Preliminary results had shown that Abdel Rahim, a prominent representative of the Fatah old guard, did not get enough votes. Qurei and other Fatah operatives cited the case of Abdel Rahim as an example of the "dishonest" manner in which the voting process was conducted. They condemned his inclusion in the winners' list as "extremely disgraceful." Hatem Abdel Qader, a Fatah operative belonging to the younger generation, said that a growing number of his colleagues were beginning to express doubts about the integrity of the vote. He said that he had no doubt that some leaders had intervened with the voting process to influence the results. Abdel Qader expressed fear that the same thing would happen with the election for the Revolutionary Council, the second most important Fatah institution after the Central Committee. Final results for the 120-seat council were scheduled to be announced later on Thursday. Also on Thursday, dozens of Fatah members signed a petition rejecting the outcome of the Central Committee election and calling for an independent probe into allegations of fraud and deception. Abbas held a press conference in Ramallah during which he denied that Fatah was on the verge of a split. He hailed the elections for the two Fatah bodies as democratic and successful. He also expressed understanding for the motives of angry Fatah operatives like Qurei who had lost out in the vote.