Fatah divided for Palestinian elections

Dissident Nasser Al-Qidwa (center), and Marouane Barghouti’s wife, Fadwa, after registering their joint list for the upcoming parliamentary elections in May, in Ramallah, West Bank, on March 31, 2021. NASSER NASSER / AP

The old Palestinian raïs and his close guard in Fatah spared no effort. In recent weeks, alternating threats and attempts at conciliation, Mahmoud Abbas has fought to preserve the unity of his party in view of the legislative elections of May 22, the first test before the presidential election scheduled for the end of July. In mid-February, the head of the Palestinian Authority (PA) even dispatched one of his ministers, Hussein Al-Sheikh, with rare permission from the Israelis, to meet with influential Fatah cadre Marouane Barghouti in prison. and convince him to stay in line.

President Abbas was trying to avoid a confrontation at the polls with this veteran of the two Intifadas, much more popular than him in the Palestinian territories. Sentenced to life five times in Israel, where he is accused of having instigated attacks that killed five Israelis, Mr. Barghouti has languished in detention for nineteen years, which has kept him away from the corruption scandals that splash the most of the leaders in Ramallah and gave him the aura of a hero of the Palestinian resistance.

All these negotiations ultimately failed, for lack of agreement on the candidates. On Wednesday March 31, the last day for filing lists for legislative elections, the 61-year-old prisoner said from his cell that he was allied with dissident Nasser Al-Qidwa, nephew of former Palestinian president Yasser Arafat. Mr. Qidwa was expelled from Fatah in early March after forming a competing list. ” Marouane Barghouti wanted to be a candidate for Fatah and wanted a united list of the movement. But disputes arose. A conflict between generations is eating away at the party, which also suffers from serious blockages, because a certain number of leaders who have participated in the national struggle, who have been imprisoned or have distinguished themselves on the ground are unable to access political posts ” , observes Palestinian political scientist Jihad Harb.

The political class is plagued by corruption

The party has been undermined for years by opposition between different political currents. However, underlines Mr. Harb, “With the approach of the elections, these differences explode and create divisions, because the movement cannot absorb all these factions”. Fatah thus ends up torn between three lists: that, official, supported by the Palestinian president, that of Mr. Barghouti and Mr. Al-Qidwa baptized ” Freedom “ and that of Mohammed Dahlan, a former close to Mahmoud Abbas. Excluded from the party in 2011 and convicted of embezzlement in 2016, the former leader of the Palestinian forces in the Gaza Strip, exiled in the United Arab Emirates, retains relative popularity in the enclave. Facing them, the Islamist movement Hamas presents itself with a unique list.

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