Fatah gunmen threaten to disrupt vote

Tensions mount following reports that Abbas would name his own candidates.

palestinian votes 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
palestinian votes 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
Tensions were mounting in the ruling Fatah party on Monday following reports that Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas had decided to name his own candidates to run in next month's parliamentary elections. Fatah gunmen, who took to the streets in several areas in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, vowed to prevent the PA from holding the parliamentary elections. The gunmen raided a number of PA election offices to protest Abbas's decision to ignore the results of primary elections held for the party over the past two weeks. The elections saw representatives of the young guard in Fatah defeat most of the veteran leaders of the party. Abbas's decision to hand pick all the candidates is seen as an attempt to sideline young activists who have long been demanding a greater say in decision making. He is expected to announce the party's list in the coming days and according to several sources it consists mostly of old guard representatives. The deadline for registering candidates for the parliamentary vote expires December 14. According to some sources, the 66-member Fatah list will be headed by Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei, who did not run in the party's recent primaries. Jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti, who scored a landslide victory in the vote as a representative of the Ramallah area, will be appointed No. 2, the sources said. Other veteran officials who did not contest the primary elections but are nevertheless included in the list are Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council, Rouhi Fatthouh, Information Minister Nabil Shaath, legislators Intisar al-Wazir and Ibrahim Abu al-Najja, former security chiefs Amin al-Hindi and Saeb al-Ajez. Although the final list has not been formally announced, many Fatah activists in the West Bank and Gaza accused Abbas and the Fatah leadership of seeking to maintain their tight grip on the party. On Monday morning Fatah gunmen raided the PA's election offices in the towns of Kahn Yunis and Deir el-Balah in the Gaza Strip and forced them to close down. Another Fatah group blocked a main highway in the Gaza Strip with burning tires. Similar raids were also reported in a number of areas in the West Bank. "We are fully confident that there is a conspiracy to divide Fatah and this is a pre-planned systematic conspiracy," said a leaflet issued by the Fatah rebels. "We are completely against appointing any nominees to the Fatah list to run for the coming elections and we are going to boycott this election. There will be no [parliamentary] elections until all the problems are solved." In yet another sign of growing tensions, some Fatah candidates have decided either to quit the race or run as independents. According to some Fatah activists, Mohammed Dahlan is one of those who is considering running in the elections as an independent. Dahlan originally was to head the Fatah list in his hometown of Khan Yunis. Hakam Balawi, a senior Fatah official from Tulkarm, announced that he will not run in the elections in protest against the decision to appoint the party's candidates rather than endorse those who won the primary vote. Abu Firas, the local commander of Fatah's armed wing, Aksa Martyrs Brigades, announced that his group will not allow the parliamentary elections to take place in the Tulakrm area saying that the decision was taken in the wake of the Fatah leadership's attempt to exclude grassroots leaders and activists living in the refugee camps.