Hanieh chosen to lead Hamas list

Pragmatic leader chosen in attempt to woo mainstream voters.

ismail hanieh 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
ismail hanieh 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
Hamas on Wednesday announced its list of candidates for next month's parliamentary elections as members of the ruling Fatah party continued to fight over their representatives. Embattled Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas was expected to present the Fatah list late Wednesday night - hours before the deadline set by the PA's central elections commission expired. Abbas is under heavy pressure to endorse the results of the primary elections in Fatah, which saw members of the young guard score a major victory over the party's old guard. Abbas has delayed announcing the list in the wake of fierce opposition by the young guard, whose representatives have accused him and the veteran leadership of seeking to maintain their tight grip on the party. Headed by Ismail Haniyeh, the Hamas line-up, called the List for Change and Reform, consists of many academics, physicians and university professors, as well as prominent leaders of the movement such as Mahmoud Zahar. Haniyeh said after presenting the list to the elections commission in Gaza City that it includes both young and old figures, as well as a number of women. "This list shows that Hamas is capable of facing al challenges," he said. "It also shows that Hamas is a dynamic movement." The No. 2 man on the list is Sheikh Mohammed Abu Tair, a former security prisoner from the village of Umm Tuba in east Jerusalem. The list also includes Miriam Farhat, a Palestinian woman from the Gaza Strip who appeared on a videotape saying farewell to her son shortly before he set out to attack an Israeli settlement. The son and two of his brothers were all killed in separate attacks on the former settlements in the Gaza Strip over the past five years. Zahar, the overall leader of Hamas, expressed deep concern at recent attacks on PA election offices in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and said his movement was prepared to protect them. "If the Palestinian Authority isn't sending its forces to protect these offices, then the Palestinian street and Hamas will do so," he added. Zahar said he believed the violence was intended to force the PA to postpone the parliamentary elections. "We won't accept any delay," he stressed. "The issue is clear; there are some who fear the results of the elections. Hamas and the Palestinians won't accept a delay because one faction isn't able to agree on its list of candidates." The PA elections commission decided on Wednesday to reopen its offices across the West Bank and the Gaza Strip after they had been shut down following a spree of attacks by Fatah gunmen. Rami Hamdallah, general director of the commission, said that the decision to reopen the offices was made after the PA promised to provide security for his staff. He said he did not rule out the possibility that the commission would extend the deadline for registering candidates by another day or two. Despite attempts to ease tensions and end the violence, dozens of gunmen stormed the headquarters of Fatah in Gaza City on Wednesday, demanding that Abbas include their supporters in the party's list. The gunmen exchanged gunfire with a rival Fatah gang in the offices and at least three people were injured, eyewitnesses said. Abu Mohammed, a leader of the attackers, told reporters that "as long as the list of Fatah candidates doesn't include those who are democratically chosen, we are going to escalate our confrontation with the movement's political leadership." He added: "We want democracy. What is happening is not democracy, but violation of the rights of people who won the primary elections [in Fatah]." On Tuesday, dozens of Fatah militiamen went on the rampage in election offices in several areas in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in protest against Abbas's decision to exclude young guard activists in Fatah's list for the parliamentary vote. Many activists, including jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti, are threatening to contest the vote through independent lists in a move that could signal the beginning of a revolt against the old guard in Fatah. Scores of Palestinian political activists staged a demonstration here on Wednesday to protest against the attacks on the election offices. The protest was organized by supporters of the Independent Palestine List, headed by Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, who warned that the violence was threatening to undermine democratic elections. Several Palestinian political groups also issued statements strongly condemning the attempts to disrupt the vote. "The attacks are dangerous steps against the democratic process," said a statement issued by the National and Islamic Forces.