Deposed Fatah operative Mohammed Dahlan will not be allowed to run in the upcoming Palestinian presidential election, because he is a convicted criminal, two senior Palestinian officials said on Saturday.
Dahlan loyalists, meanwhile, welcomed Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s decision to call new elections and said that they intend to participate in the electoral process.
They warned that Dahlan supporters would run in an independent list if the Fatah leadership refuses to include them in its list for the parliamentary election.
It’s worth noting that divisions and bickering in Fatah were one of the reasons why the ruling faction lost the parliamentary election to Hamas in 2006.
The election for the parliament, known as the Palestinian Legislative Council, is scheduled to be held on May 22. The presidential election will be held on July 31, according to a decree issued by Abbas on Friday evening.
In 2016, a Palestinian Authority court in Ramallah sentenced Dahlan (in absentia) to three years in prison after finding him guilty of embezzling $16 million. Dahlan has denied the charges.
Dahlan, a former PA security commander in the Gaza Strip, has been living in the United Arab Emirates since falling out with Abbas in 2011.
He was expelled from Fatah amid allegations that he was behind the “assassination” of former PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat, who died in November 2004.
Over the past decade, Dahlan, who was born in Khan Yunis refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, has emerged as a major political opponent of Abbas and the PA leadership.
Dahlan is seen by his followers as a leading candidate to replace Abbas.
In recent weeks, PA security forces have arrested a number of Dahlan’s supporters in the West Bank on suspicion of incitement against Abbas and forming armed militias in at least three refugee camps near Ramallah, Nablus and Jenin. Dahlan also has many followers among Fatah in the Gaza Strip.
“Dahlan is a convicted criminal,” a PA official told The Jerusalem Post. “He is an official employee of the United Arab Emirates. He is a foreign agent.”
According to reports in the Arab media, Dahlan serves as a special adviser to UAE Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed.
“Mohammed Dahlan was convicted by a Palestinian court, and as such he cannot present his candidacy,” said another PA official. “He was found guilty of financial corruption and is wanted by the Palestinian Authority. If he comes to the West Bank, he will be put in prison to serve his sentence.”
Dahlan’s group, Democratic Reform Current, on Saturday welcomed Abbas’s decision to hold general elections, but the group did not say whether Dahlan was planning to run in the presidential election.
Abbas’s announcement “is the best way to overcome the division [between the West Bank and Gaza Strip] and its consequences, reconstruct the Palestinian political system on democratic foundations, and restore unity,” the group said in a statement.
Dahlan’s group urged Abbas to lift the sanctions he imposed three years ago on the Gaza Strip, including the suspension of salaries of his rivals in Fatah, in order to create a positive atmosphere for holding the elections.
The group expressed hope that Fatah would run in the parliamentary election as a unified list. It said that if efforts to form a unified Fatah list failed, the Dahlan loyalists will run in the parliamentary election as an independent list.
Ghassan Jadallah, a prominent member of the Fatah dissident group, called on Fatah members “to seize the opportunity and participate with full force and weight in the elections.’
Jadallah warned that if the current Fatah leadership insists on “robbing the will’ of Fatah members, the Dahlan loyalists are ready to contest the election with their own “national list.”
Majed Abu Shamala, a senior member of Dahlan’s Democratic Reform Current, said that the upcoming elections must be fair and free and “guarantee the representation of all groups of the Palestinian people and their factions.”
Abu Shamala too expressed hope that Fatah would run as a single and unified list.
Sufian Abu Zaida, another Fatah leader from the Gaza Strip closely associated with Dahlan, said that he wants Fatah to participate in the elections through a unified list. “If this is not possible, we will participate in the elections with an independent list of leaders and cadres,” Abu Zaida said.