Friday, March 11, 2005


Fatah eyes legislative elections

In this week's al-Ahram, Khalid Amayreh writes about the divisions within Fatah that are starting to reveal themselves after the death of Arafat, the election of Abbas, and in anticipation of Palestinian legislative elections that are scheduled for this coming July. Amayreh reports on the resignation of 15 prominent regional Fatah leaders from the party, writing:
The resigning leaders, who included Ahmed Ghuneim, Mohamed Hourani, Hussein Al-Sheikh, Qaddura Faris, Jamal Shubaki and Hatem Abdul-Qader, warned that Fatah would suffer a resounding defeat in the upcoming legislative election, slated for 25 July, unless radical organisational reforms within the movement were introduced sooner rather than later.

In a press interview earlier this week, Ghuneim argued that Fatah was losing to Hamas in the Palestinian public opinion due to "mistakes and blunders" made by the movement's leadership, particularly the Fatah Executive Committee, controlled mainly by "outsiders" who returned from abroad after the creation of the self-rule authority in 1993.
The resigning members are also connected to Marwan Barghouti, whose status also suffered as a result of the presidential elections and the whole fiasco with that. The major complaint is that Fatah as a political organization functions with very little input from the bottom and in a very undemocratic manner. This lack of democratic tendency is also evident in the fact that:
Some Fatah leaders, fearing a poor showing and even poorer results in the elections, are already sending out feelers suggesting and recommending that the elections be postponed at least six months in order to give the movement sufficient time to enhance its popularity and winning prospects.

Indeed, such suggestions and "whisperings" might eventually evolve into a formal demand by Fatah, given present difficulties and the image problems it is facing.
What a strategy... if you're doing poorly, simply postpone elections. Interestingly, a recent poll (in pdf format) by the Palestinian Center for Research and Cultural Dialogue shows that 54 percent of Palestinians believe that the Palestinian political factions are not characterized by democracy and transparency. Also, in light of the possibility of postponing the legislative elections, 83.1 percent support holding them this July. As Amayreh points out, if Abbas were to postpone the elections, it would most likely serve only to push Fatah even further into disarray, and would certainly hurt their popularity. If Fatah wants to win more elections (the same poll shows that if elections were held today, 35.9 percent would vote for Fatah, 19.3 percent for Hamas, and around 10 or 11 percent for independents, either national or Islamic), they would be better served by listening to those voices of dissent inside the party rather than trying to enforce a strict party line from above.

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