Is Marwan Barghouti planning to run for PA president?

Fatah leaders reportedly support jailed Fatah leader’s candidacy

Jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti would win elections for Palestinian president according to a poll held in early summer by the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion. (photo credit: REUTERS/BAZ RATNER)
Jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti would win elections for Palestinian president according to a poll held in early summer by the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion.
(photo credit: REUTERS/BAZ RATNER)
If and when a new election for the Palestinian Authority presidency takes place, jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti will present his candidacy, Palestinian sources said on Saturday.
A Fatah official told The Jerusalem Post that the 60-year-old Barghouti, who in 2004 was tried and convicted of murdering Israelis during the Second Intifada, has yet to make a final decision whether he intends to contest the vote.
Other officials, nonetheless, insisted that Barghouti has decided to run in the presidential election.
“It’s highly likely that Barghouti will run,” the sources said. “He believes that Fatah needs new leaders.”
According to the sources, several senior Fatah leaders in the West Bank support Barghouti’s participation and see him as the most suitable candidate to replace PA President Mahmoud Abbas.
In 2004, Barghouti, who is serving five life sentences in Israeli prison, announced his intention to run in the PA presidential election in January 2005. He was forced to withdraw from the contest, however, after facing heavy pressure from senior Fatah officials.
No date has been set for the new PA presidential and parliamentary elections.
In as speech before the United Nations General Assembly in September, Abbas announced his intention to hold new general elections in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem.
Abbas, however, has conditioned the vote on Israel’s agreeing to also hold the elections in east Jerusalem. Abbas and senior PA officials said that they are awaiting Israel’s approval for allowing east Jerusalem residents to participate in the planned elections.
Abbas and some Fatah leaders are said to be opposed to Barghouti’s participation in the presidential election. They suspect that he has forged an alliance with Abbas’s archrival, deposed Fatah leader Mohammed Dahlan. In 2011, Dahlan was expelled from Fatah after falling out with Abbas and his sons; he has since been living in the United Arab Emirates.
Several public opinion polls published by different Palestinian organizations in the past few years have shown that a majority of Palestinians would support Barghouti if he ran in the election.
The most recent poll, conducted by the Ramallah-based Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, 37% of respondents said that if Abbas does not nominate himself in a new election, they prefer to see Barghouti replacing him. The poll also found that most Palestinians prefer Barghouti to Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh. Barghouti, according to the poll, is favored by 62% of those surveyed, while Haniyeh was favored by only 34%.
A majority of 61% of Palestinian respondents said they want Abbas to resign. Three months ago, demand for Abbas’s resignation stood at 49% in the West Bank and 74% in the Gaza Strip, according to the poll, which was conducted between December 11 and 14. Moreover, 56% of respondents said they supported holding the elections even if Israel does not allow them in east Jerusalem.
Hatem Abdel Qader, a senior Fatah official from east Jerusalem, said on Saturday that he was convinced that Barghouti would run in any new presidential election. Abdel Qader told the London-based Al-Araby Al-Jadeed media outlet that Barghouti would run in the election if Abbas decides not to seek re-election.
Abdel Qader, a former PA minister for Jerusalem affairs, said that Barghouti’s lawyer told him a few days ago that the jailed Fatah leader has decided to run in the presidential election.
Another senior Fatah official, however, told the Post that it was “premature” to talk about Barghouti’s participation in the election.
“Barghouti is waiting to see if Abbas won’t seek re-election before he makes a decision,” the official said. “I don’t see a scenario where Barghouti would challenge Abbas if the latter decides to run again.”
Abbas and senior Fatah officials are said to have recently exerted pressure on Barghouti not to run. Instead, they offered him to lead the Fatah list in the election for the Palestinian Legislative Council.
Barghouti, who was elected to the council in 1996, led the Fatah list that lost the parliamentary election to Hamas 10 years later.
Unconfirmed reports have suggested that Hamas would support Barghouti if he decided to run in the presidential election.
Fatah officials said that it remains unclear whether Abbas would run in the next presidential elections. Some predicted that the 85-year-old Abbas, who was elected for a four-year-term in 2005, would not seek re-election. Others, however, said that Abbas has decided not to enter the race, in order to pave the way for a new leader to succeed him.
Ibrahim Abu al-Naja, a senior Fatah official from the Gaza Strip, said that his faction has still not decided who would represent it in the new election. “If President Abbas decided that he doesn’t want to run in the upcoming election, the Fatah institutions will meet to elect a candidate,” he said.
Naja warned against a situation where Fatah would have more than one candidate contesting the vote, saying that would have a negative impact on the faction.