A United Fatah in the Elections Or More Divisions?

The Palestinian Central Elections Committee declared the closure of the electoral register to be on February 16, 2021. Afterwards, the different Palestinian factions and parties will initiate the preparations and talks to agree on the programs and candidates of all Palestinian representatives who will take part in the elections to ensure greater representation and higher results.

Since President Mahmoud Abbas’ issuance of the electoral decree in mid-January, the Palestinian factions encouraged their supporters to confirm their registration in the elections, and started the selection process of their representatives deciding whether they will be selected based on consensus, elections or quotas.

Fatah, along with the other factions, has already commenced its arrangements; preparing the electoral programs and selecting the candidates. However, these talks have exposed a deep crack and uncovered the disparities and differences within Fatah revealing three representations – and a possible fourth.

In addition to the main list headed by President Mahmoud Abbas, the dismissed leader Mohammed Dahlan is leading another faction within the movement opposing Abbas and calling for reforms. There is also a third list led by the prisoner leader Marwan Al-Barghouti who seeks to form a list that includes all the groups regardless of personal ambitions and interests, and in what best serves the movement. He also wants to ensure including figures who are publicly accepted and capable of making a change.

Generally, the disparity indicates that the different groups of the movement want to guarantee their share in the elections, positions in the government and the public’s support in the elections. Some leaders in Fatah such as Nabil Amru and Ahmed Qreaiqi are trying to form a fourth list after having found themselves excluded from the movement’s electoral lists.  

Analysis

  • Fatah is currently facing a state of disparity among its powerful figures which weakens the chances of achieving internal consensus, and forming one joint list and one electoral program.
  • Fatah has excluded its most prominent leaders, and the current President Mahmoud Abbas has solely headed the movement and the PA which enraged the members in the movement.
  • The excluded are powerful and prominent leaders who took advantage of their supporters and their influential abilities to introduce themselves as rivals in the elections should the movement ignore them.
  • Some Fatah leaders, such as Dahlan and Barghouti, insist on competing and running for various legislative or presidential posts, and oppose the idea of Abbas and his followers continuing to lead Fatah alone.
  • Recent updates confirm that the movement will be facing more divisions and lack of trust, recalling the exclusion and falsification that happened in 2006 elections. The most recent division within Fatah was the announcement of the movement in Nablus that it was going to split from the movement.
  • Dahlan and Barghouti are keeping the door ajar. They keep the idea of their re-inclusion in the movement open for realization but in accordance with certain conditions that ensure their involvement and that Abbas and his followers would not be solely in charge of issuing decisions and making policies within the movement – or else they will run for the elections under separate lists.
  • Some regional parties are exercising pressure on Fatah’s factions to unite and join the elections under one list and one program so that it would win against Hamas, which is less preferred by such countries (Egypt, Jordan and the UAE mainly). These countries have paid the PA in Ramallah several visits the past few weeks.
  • The variation and disparity within Fatah is a main reason for weakening it and having its votes divided, making it an easy win for Hamas especially that the results of polls between the two main Palestinian parties are approaching. 

Possible Scenarios:

First Scenario: It is possible that the pressure exercised by Egypt, Jordan and the UAE would force Abbas, Dahlan and Barghouti to run for the elections under one joint list. The amount of pressure exercised, the countries’ desire to prevent Hamas from heading the Palestinian political scene, and Fatah’s awareness of the result of division and its benefits to Hamas’ results in the elections are all factors that increase the chances of the realization of this scenario.

Second Scenario: The division within Fatah would continue and the members stand for elections separately which would weaken their winning chances. The factors which support this scenario are Abbas’ strong opposition to reconciling with Dahlan and to allowing others to run against him the presidential elections. His insistence on being the only candidate representing the movement is well-known to Dahlan and Barghouti who also know his desire to lead the Palestinian political scene through ensuring the inclusion of his supporters in the legislative elections.

Third Scenario: The inability and failure to unite the electoral list of Fatah could lead to Fatah’s retreat and elusion from elections. Fatah usually eludes any elections in which it fears to lose (similar to what happened in the elections of municipal councils). Through these elections, Fatah wishes to renew its legitimacy. If it realizes that the elections will not achieve its aims, it may elude these elections as well.

Fatah is probably going to face more pressure in order to unite its list against Hamas, which is well-structured and organized. The regional parties would seek to support Fatah’s list by all means possible to ensure its victory in the elections. If things go differently, it is excepted that Fatah would elude the elections and the political vacuum and division continue the same (as explained in the third scenario).

Source : PALM Strategic Initiatives Centre