Results delayed in key Fatah election

Members barred from traveling to convention by Hamas given several more hours to call in votes.

abbas votes 248 88 ap (photo credit: AP)
abbas votes 248 88 ap
(photo credit: AP)
Fatah movement on Monday put off counting ballots and announcing its new leadership because of complications over voting by its members from the Gaza Strip, who were barred from traveling to the convention by the rival Hamas, officials said. The vote will show whether Fatah has succeeded in reinvigorating the movement by bringing in new faces. The results are expected later Monday or early Tuesday. The convention - Fatah's first in 20 years - has already produced a new party platform, presented as a more moderate stance toward Israel. While not rejecting violence, it encourages members to use more peaceful means like demonstrations and economic boycotts to end Israel's occupation. The movement also hopes to revive its flagging political fortunes with the conference, held in the West Bank. After initially announcing Monday that voting for the organization's powerful central committee had been completed, organizers said Fatah members from Gaza - who had to vote by telephone - would be given more time. By noon, only 200 of the 300 Gaza delegates had been able to vote and the polls would remain open until they finished, said Fatah official Nabil Amr. Officials were calling each one by cell phone and verifying their identity, a time-consuming process, they said. The convention ends Tuesday. Underscoring the vast gap between Israel and the Palestinians, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, speaking to a visiting delegation of Democratic congressmen from the US on Monday, condemned Fatah's new platform as extreme and uncompromising. The Fatah movement has historically led Palestinian efforts for statehood but has lost support in recent years because it is perceived as aging and corrupt. Fatah has been trying to bolster its standing against Hamas, the Islamic group that defeated it in an election in 2006 and then in bloody fighting in 2007 seized control of Gaza. Hamas strongman Mahmoud Zahar said he hoped Fatah would pick a new leadership that would be able to engage in a dialogue with Hamas. Speaking during a visit Monday to Cairo, Zahar said that "dialogue is the only way to realize Palestinian reconciliation." The more than 2,000 delegates to the convention are electing candidates to 18 open seats on the 23-member committee, which automatically includes Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Delegates are also electing 80 members to a larger body, the 130-seat Revolutionary Council. Fatah dominates the Palestinian government in the West Bank, and the committees help to determine policy. Both will have to approve any peace deal with Israel before one is signed. Highlighting tensions between the Palestinian rivals, a Hamas loyalist was found dead Monday in a prison in Nablus run by the Palestinian Authority. Palestinian Authority police spokesman Adnan Damiri said Fadi Hamadneh, 27, was found hanged in his cell. His brother Hani said he had no history of psychiatric illness and that security officials had prevented relatives from visiting Hamadneh a week before he died. Hamas officials in Gaza accused Fatah of torturing Hamadneh to death.