Fatah leaders seek 'voting fraud' probe

Senior officials in Gaza Strip announce resignation in protest of central committee's election results.

Fatah committee election waiting 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
Fatah committee election waiting 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
Senior Fatah leaders in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday demanded an investigation into alleged fraud in this week's election for the faction's central committee. The demand came as members of the Higher Committee of Fatah in the Gaza Strip announced their resignations in protest of the voting results. Meanwhile, the final results of the vote, which were announced late Wednesday at a press conference in Bethlehem, gave another seat to Tayeb Abdel Rahim, an old-guard Fatah leader and close aide to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. The announcement had been delayed following requests from some candidates to hold a recount of the votes. According to the results, veteran Fatah operative Abu Maher Ghnaim got the highest number of votes (1,368). Mahmoud Aloul came in second with 1,102 votes, while jailed Fatah terrorist Marwan Barghouti was third with 1,063. Ibrahim Abu al-Naja, a Fatah leader from the Gaza Strip, said that many delegates from his area had been denied the right to cast their ballots in the election. Abu al-Naja, one of the candidates who were not elected to the Central Committee, called on the Fatah leadership to reconsider the decision to hold the vote without the participation of dozens of delegates from the Gaza Strip. But another senior Fatah official from the Gaza Strip, Zakaria al-Agha, said the mass resignations were in accordance with the faction's internal regulations and not an act of protest. The newly elected Central Committee, which has 23 seats, includes only two representatives from the Gaza Strip: Muhammad Dahlan and Nabil Sha'ath. Eighteen members of the committee are directly elected by delegates to the Fatah General Assembly, while four others are appointed by the head of the faction. Many Fatah representatives in the Gaza Strip expressed skepticism over the voting process and said it was "inconceivable" that nearly all the members of the Central Committee were from the West Bank. One of the representatives, Ahmed Nasr, accused unnamed parties of tampering with the results of the vote. He, too, failed to win a seat on the committee. "The results were changed so as to serve the interests of operatives with political and financial influence," he said. "We have no doubt that there was forgery." Sources close to Abbas denied the allegations, stressing that the voting process had been conducted "in an open and fair manner." The sources said Abbas was now considering appointing a woman and a Christian as members of the Central Committee. The sources did not rule out the possibility that Abbas would seek to appease his critics by also naming two representatives from the Gaza Strip as members. Meanwhile, editorials and news articles from the Arab world on Wednesday appeared optimistic and realistic about the results of the Fatah conference and the challenges the party faced in regaining the trust of the Palestinian people. An editorial piece published on the Al-Jazeera Web site noted that Fatah had witnessed the decline of its position in Palestinian society, and that the movement was in need of more than just a conference to improve the lives of Palestinians; it must undertake continual and comprehensive work. The editorial acknowledged that the conference was a historical event for Fatah and helped pave the way for the party's future. However, it noted that the conference lacked meaningful internal discussions on the past failures of the movement and on how to implement positive changes. Another editorial piece, published in the Arabic-language Al-Hayat newspaper, commented on the results of the gathering and questioned whether Fatah was prepared to undertake the necessary initiatives on all levels to lead the Palestinian people. Similar to the Al-Jazeera piece, the Al-Hayat editorial was quick to mention the past failings of Fatah, and the Palestinian people's lack of confidence in the party. The article noted that the new central committee had its fair share of internal conflicts and that the new leadership was in need of major reworking. However, it also claimed that Israel was largely to blame for the absence of peace negotiations, saying there had been an Israeli retreat from the peace requirements and that Israel had rejected the two-state solution. While these two editorials took a more critical approach toward the conference results, Arabnews.com praised the outcome and stated that Abbas had reclaimed legitimacy with his voters. According to the Web site, the call for a new General Assembly was a successful gamble on Abbas's part and the new leadership will rejuvenate the movement and consolidate Abbas's position as its leader.