Fatah's young guard rejects united list

Abbas races to repair last-minute rift in party ahead of election deadline.

barghouti poster298 88ap (photo credit: AP)
barghouti poster298 88ap
(photo credit: AP)
Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday raced to repair a last-minute rift in the ruling Fatah party, a day ahead of a deadline for the movement to complete a revised list of candidates for upcoming parliamentary elections. The 11th-hour spat between Fatah's veteran leadership and its so-called young guard was the latest sign of disarray in the party, which faces a stiff challenge from the Islamic militant group Hamas in the Jan. 28 election. Fatah has been bitterly divided between party veterans and a young generation of activists demanding a bigger role in party decision-making. Two weeks ago, the young guard broke off from the party to protest Fatah's slate of candidates for the Jan. 25 election and submitted its own list. Eager to bring the young guard back, Abbas agreed to redraw the party's list of candidates, giving top positions to younger activists. The deal forced veterans to seek election instead in separate district voting, where their chances of victory are slim due to widespread perceptions of corruption. Half of the parliamentary seats are to be decided in nationwide voting, with the other half decided in district races. A Palestinian court on Monday agreed to reopen the registration period, clearing the way for Abbas to present the unified list. The court set Wednesday as the new deadline for parties to submit their lists of candidates. But hours before the deadline, the simmering dispute erupted again. Members of the young guard accused Abbas of caving in to the old-timers and restoring them to top spots on the party list. "We received the final list but we totally disagree with it," said Ahmed Ghneim, a leader of "Future," the young guard's breakaway faction. "Apparently there are parties within the Fatah leadership that don't want to reach an agreement with Future." Future officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the faction was considering backing out of its agreement with Abbas. But officials from both sides said negotiations were continuing and they hoped to reach a compromise by Wednesday's deadline. "It's impossible to go to this election with two lists. There would be nothing worse for Fatah," said Abbas Zaki, a party veteran and member of Fatah's powerful central committee.