Monday, December 06, 2004

 

Will Barghouti back out?

Marwan Barghouti, who announced his candidacy for president last week, is now facing substantial opposition from within the ranks of Fateh. Ha'aretz reports that Farouq Qaddoumi, the new head of Fateh, stated from Tunis:
"As the presidential election draws closer, any Fatah member who goes against decisions of the movement's central committee should resign and his membership would be cancelled."
And while Qaddoumi is certainly one of the "old guard" of the Fateh movement, it should also be noted that he is not simply a company line kind of guy, considering his break with Arafat (and Abu Mazin) over Oslo, which he strongly opposed. Qaddoumi also said the he hoped that Barghouti would reconsider his candidacy and that he had sent some people to talk to him about it.

Meanwhile, Danny Rubinstein has a brief but effective breakdown of the three high profile candidates in the PA presidential race: Marwan Barghouti, Mustafa Barghouti, and Abu Mazin. In it he writes:
A widespread campaign against Marwan Barghouti is being waged in recent days among the Palestinian public. In every corner of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, groups of Fatah members, veterans and younger men, have been organizing and denouncing Barghouti's candidacy for head of the Palestinian Authority. The branches of the Shabiba, the Fatah youth organization; the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, the military arm of the organization; and even the organization of Fatah prisoners in Israeli prisons - all have been publicizing notices of support for Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas) and reservations concerning their friend Barghouti. Everyone is careful not to taint the honor of the most famous Palestinian prisoner - "the architect of the intifada," as his fans call him - but are asking of him: Please withdraw your candidacy. "If you respect democracy and the principle of majority decision, you must change your mind and support Abu Mazen," they are writing him.
If I am not mistaken, I remember reading that the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades had endorsed Barghouti instead of Abu Mazin - it is interesting now that after Barghouti has thrown his hat into the ring they are taking a different position (although it is possible that the report then was incorrect, the report now is incorrect, of that each report refers to a different branch of the Brigades - which, from my impression, seem to be highly decentralized). The major concern seems to be that Barghouti will not receive enough of the vote to defeat Abu Mazin, but only take enough votes from Abu Mazin that he will not have a strong mandate to lead (and we here in the US know a thing or two about mandates, don't we?). The first article linked above cites a Bir Zeit University poll that has Marwan Barghouti with 46 percent support among respondents who have decided to vote and Abu Mazin with 44 percent support (with Mustafa Barghouti with 6.7 percent). Another poll, conducted by the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion, has Marwan Barghouti at 21.9 percent, Mustafa Barghouti at 13.6 percent, and Abu Mazin at 39.8 percent. I'm not a pollster, so I cannot explain the pretty significant differences in these results, but I did notice that the Bir Zeit poll was broken down much more among those respondents who indicated that they had decided to vote, those who were undecided, and those who had decided that they were not going to vote. The Bir Zeit poll also shows that 64.4% of those surveyed believe that Abu Mazin will win the election (for whatever that is worth).

Also noteworthy in the PCPO poll were responses to questions about Hamas's decision to boycott and Marwan Barghouti's decision to enter the election. The poll showed 44.4 percent thought that Hamas's decision to boycott was the wrong decision (compared to 36.9 percent who thought it was the right decision). The poll also showed that 39.9 percent thought Barghouti's decision was the wrong decision (compared to 39.1 percent who thought it was the right decision and 21 percent who didn't know). Of Fateh members polled, Barghouti received 26.4 percent support compared to 73.6 percent for Abu Mazin. This seems like a pretty significant backlash against Barghouti's decision. I cannot believe that he would want to be stripped of his Fateh membership, and there is the possibility that his political career would never fully recover from something as significant as that. Obviously looking at two polls that say two pretty different things it is hard to say what the reality is, but I would think that if Barghouti gets the sense that he has no real chance to win this election, he will withdraw his candidacy.


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