Apparent upsets in Fatah leadership election

By Ma’an News – 11 Aug 2009
www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=218180

Bethlehem – Ma’an – With 90% of the votes counted, Fatah’s old guard appears to have suffered major upsets in an election for the movement’s highest decision-making body, the Central Committee.

By far the most significant upset is the ousting of Ahmad Quriea, the head of the Palestinian negotiating team and Fatah’s Organization and Mobilization department. A key member of the Fatah establishment in the West Bank, Quriea organized the Fatah conference himself, and according to many sources added extra delegates in an attempt to increase his chances of reelection.

Among those likely to win seats for the first time on the committee is jailed resistance leader Marwan Al-Barghouthi, a favorite of the grassroots. Fatah’s relatively militant leader in Lebanon, Sultan Abul Aynein, also appears to have picked up a seat.

But the “new blood” on the Central Committee does not all come from the younger generation.

Also set to win seats are establishment figures such as former PA Security Chief Jibril Rajoub, Yasser Arafat’s nephew Nasser Al-Qudwa, chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat, and PA civil affairs chief Hussein As-Sheikh.

Fatah’s controversial former security chief in Gaza Muhammad Dahlan also appears to have picked up a seat. While he is a member of Fatah’s younger generation, he is also a polarizing figure in Palestinian politics, as he is reviled by Hamas and other opponents.

Incumbent Abu Maher Ghneim, a former opponent of the Oslo accords who was brought back into President Abbas’ fold just last week, appears set to retain his seat.

Other incumbents likely to be ousted from the committee are leaders Hani Al-Hassan, Sakher Habash, Abdullah Al-Ifranji, Intisar Al-Wazir (Umm Jihad), Gaza Fatah secretary Zakariyah Al-Agha, Muhammad Jihad, and Farouq Al-Qaddumi, who recently opened a dispute with Abbas over accusations of an assassination plot against Yasser Arafat.

Some 2,000 delegates to the Fatah convention in Bethlehem cast paper ballots to elect 18 members of the 23-member Central Committee. Another 300 delegates trapped in Gaza by a Hamas travel ban voted by phone in polling that was held open for several hours on Monday night, a day after regular voting ended in Bethlehem.

Another four members will be appointed by the elected members. President Abbas was elected to head the committee on Saturday in an uncontested vote.

A total of 96 candidates, including six women, stood for election for 18 elected seats on the Central Committee. Another 617 people, including 50 women, ran for 80 open places on the second-highest body, the Revolutionary Council (the remaining 40 seats are appointed).

Convention officials said the results of the vote for the Revolutionary Council will be announced later.

The Bethlehem conference, which began last Tuesday, was Fatah’s first in 20 years, while the party’s bylaws call for a general congress every five years.

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