Fatah: Abbas is our only candidate in upcoming elections, PLO urges vote

PLO urges international community to pressure Israel to allow vote in east Jerusalem.

PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY President Mahmoud Abbas (photo credit: OSMAN ORSAL/REUTERS)
(photo credit: OSMAN ORSAL/REUTERS)
The Palestinian ruling Fatah faction announced on Saturday that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will be its only candidate in new presidential elections.
The announcement came during a meeting of senior Fatah leaders in the West Bank to discuss Abbas’s initiative to hold new presidential and parliamentary elections. Abbas also serves as chairman of Fatah.
Abbas, 84, announced his initiative during a speech before the United Nations General Assembly in late September.
The last presidential election was held in 2005, when Abbas was elected for a four-year term. The last parliamentary election, which resulted in a Hamas victory, was held in 2006.
No date has been set for the long overdue elections as Fatah and Hamas continue their indirect negotiations on the initiative.
Representatives of the Palestinian Central Elections Commission are scheduled to return to the Gaza Strip later this week for additional discussions with Hamas and other Palestinian factions on ways of reaching agreement over the elections. The representatives of the commission visited the Gaza Strip twice in the past two weeks.
Saturday’s announcement came days after Jibril Rajoub, a senior Fatah official and head of the Palestinian Football Association, announced that Abbas, who will turn 85 in two months, will not seek reelection. Rajoub told Palestine TV that Fatah wants to see Abbas as “the sheikh of the tribe” and “spiritual father of the democratic process.”
Rajoub, a former commander of the PA Preventive Security in the West Bank, is seen by some Fatah operatives as a strong candidate to succeed Abbas.
Rajoub’s announcement came days after another senior Fatah official, Hussein al-Sheikh, said that Abbas would be Fatah’s only candidate in the next elections.
The contradictory statements are a sign of differences among the Fatah leadership regarding Abbas’s candidacy. Rajoub represents Fatah members who believe that it’s time for Abbas to retire and pave the way for a new leader, while Sheikh belongs to the Fatah camp that wants Abbas to remain in power until his last day.
Sheikh’s camp consists of Mahmoud al-Aloul, deputy chairman of Fatah, and senior leaders of the faction Azzam al-Ahmed, Dalal Salameh and Jamal Muheissen.
During Saturday’s meeting in Ramallah, these Fatah leaders said they agreed that Abbas is their only candidate and “there’s no alternative to him.”
They also called on Abbas to quickly issue a “presidential decree” setting a date of the new elections, saying Fatah was prepared to contest the vote.
Fatah officials said on Saturday that they were still waiting for Hamas’s response to Abbas’s initiative. According to the officials, some Palestinian factions have expressed readiness to participate in the elections, while Islamic Jihad is the only group that has said it would not take part in the vote.
Azzam al-Ahmed, member of the Fatah Central Committee, said that his faction was opposed to Hamas’s demand that a meeting of all Palestinian faction leaders be held before Abbas sets a date for the elections. He said that Abbas has suggested that the meeting take place only after he issues a “presidential decree” regarding the elections.
“Elections everywhere in the world are held in accordance with the law, and not on the basis of a meeting of faction leaders,” Ahmed explained.
He expressed opposition to holding elections only in the West Bank, insisting that the vote also take place in the Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem.
“We want Hamas and all the Palestinian factions to participate in the elections,” Ahmed added.
PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat on Saturday appealed to Britain and the international community to pressure Israel to allow the Palestinians to hold the presidential and parliamentary elections in east Jerusalem. The appeal came during a meeting between Erekat and the British Consul-General to Jerusalem.
“The election is a cardinal Palestinian national interest and the shortest way to reconciliation and national partnership,” Erekat said, adding that he requested the intervention of the Britain and the international community “to have the Israeli government comply with the agreed arrangements for Palestinian general elections in east Jerusalem.”
Palestinian academic and political analyst Abdel Sattar Qassem ruled out the possibility that the Palestinians would be able to hold new elections under the current circumstances.
“The environment in the West Bank and Gaza Strip is not suitable for democratic elections,” he argued in an article published in the London-based Rai Al-Youm online newspaper. “For years, people in the West Bank and Gaza Strip have suffered from repression of the factions and harassment by the [Palestinian] security services. There is a high probability that no elections will be held. The Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority, the Zionists and the Americans do not want elections because they fear that the opponents of the Oslo Accords will win. Hamas has also hindered the elections for a long period of time.”