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Palestine: Abbas and Battle of Succession | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had earlier accused Hamas of running a ‘parallel government’ in Gaza -Reuters

Ramallah – The seventh Congress of Fatah which concluded this week was highly important for Mahmoud Abbas, it represented a multi-front battle and a fruitful investment for him. However, most importantly, this congress has established for a new phase that will draw the new president’s features and provide a flexible transfer of authority.

The transfer follows many dues: Fatah’s elections that brought a new central committee, elections and PLO elections to choose a new executive committee. According to the Fatahawi concept, the coming president must be a member in the central committee and an executive member in the PLO.

Abu Mazen’s assistants in Fatah recognized years ago the importance of appointing a vice-president for fear of a possible chaos provoked by exterior parties to eliminate Abbas from the scene without a prior notice. This fact was expected to open the door for many internal disputes and political conflicts with Israel, Arab countries, and the United States concerning the figure that should be chosen. However, despite that Fatah’s officials were aware of these dangers and urged to elect a vice president, Abbas didn’t feel rush to do so; rather, he sought to organize elections for both Fatah and the PLO.


For years, no one dared to seriously discuss the appointment of a vice president for many political and personal considerations. Before the convention of the current Fatah Congress, Asharq Al-Awsat reported -according to an official in the movement- that by holding the 7th congress, the president sought to organize the interior ranks and to choose the president and his vice president, members of the central committee, and the revolutionary council.

This process set to be followed by the convention of the Palestinian National Council to choose a new executive committee and to discuss the position of the vice-president; such decision requires many amendments in the basic law to be carried by the legislative council; however, given that the council has been disabled, the case should be referred to the central council.

However, this scenario is expected to be severely opposed by Hamas; Naif al-Rajoub, MP for Hamas said that according to the Palestinian law, Aziz Duwaik, speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council is the one who should succeed Abbas for 60 days till electing the new president. However, Fatah considers that Dwaik is an illegitimate speaker because he finished his mandate; this legal dispute has been a part of other bigger conflicts between Fatah and Hamas that prevented the implementation of general elections.

A turning point

Regional interferences have pressured on Abbas to hold reconciliation with his enemy Mohammad Dahlan. The Arab view stressed on the importance of holding an interior Fatah reconciliation that aims at empowering Fatah, followed by another reconciliation with Hamas, to finally achieve the long awaited general elections to eliminate division. This view, which seems fairly acceptable, has remarkably pissed off Abbas who has completely refused any connections with Dahlan, which pushed him to organize these elections to exclude him – once and for all – by appointing a new president and a vice president.

An official in Fatah said that the movement has denounced the Arab intervention and didn’t expect such pressures; the official asserted that the Dahlan matter is behind them and any reconciliation with him is totally rejected.

Observers see that the selection on a vice-president for Fatah and a secretary general for the PLO will play a major role in determining the person who will succeed Abu Mazen.

The new successor

During the congress, Fatahawis voted for the Captive in Israeli prisons Marwan Barghouti to head the new central committee after he received 930 out of 1100 voices. In an important step, Abbas expressed his contentment from Barghouti’s winning in a phone call with the captive’s wife to inform her about the results.

Supporters of Marwan al-Barghouti known as the “Mandela of Palestine” see that he will be the best successor for Abbas; it is worth noting that Barghouti confronted Abbas in the elections of 2005, but withdrew under heavy pressures and warnings from interior conflicts in Fatah.

The captive suggests that his election as Abbas’s deputy will oblige Israel on releasing him. However, some Fathawi officials see that Barghouti’s appointment from his prison is impossible.

The decision is not pure Palestinian

It’s true that Abbas made important steps in regulating the interior ranks of Fatah to secure a flexible transfer of authority far from his enemies and their supporters, but the political analyst Tala Awkal sees that the matter cannot be controlled by Abbas alone. He also said that the decision cannot be only taken by Palestinians; the concerns of their Arab partners and the Israeli control also play major role.

However Awkal saw that in Fatah Congress, Abbas delivered a significant message for his enemies saying that he will lead his ship till the end and that the new leader will be chosen by him.