Ramallah, Asharq Al-Awsat-Well-informed sources have told Asharq Al-Awsat that PLO factions are studying a proposal by Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas to run in the forthcoming presidential and legislative elections as one list to confront Hamas, which achieved a sweeping victory in the previous elections four years ago, when it won majority seats in the Palestinian Legislative Council [PLC].
PLO Executive Committee Member Saleh Rafat said that the proposal is still under study. He announced that his political party, the Palestinian Democratic Union Party [FIDA], has agreed to the proposal. He said that the other factions are likely to accept it.
Rafat told Asharq Al-Awsat that Abbas’s proposal aims at portraying the PLO factions as unified. He explained that if these factions are to reach agreement, they will nominate one presidential candidate and will run in the PLC election as one list. He added that in this case, all factions will work in the best interest of this list. He said that, moreover, Fatah will get the lion’s share and will get to choose the presidential candidate, who will most probably be Abbas himself. He explained that this is unless Abbas goes back on his decision to nominate himself. He said that this is in addition to allowing Fatah to maintain a majority in the PLC through the unified list.
Such a step will allow small factions to attain more seats and will allow smaller factions to enter the PLC for the first time. The PLO includes Fatah, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine [PFLP], the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine [DFLP], the Palestinian People’s Party [PPP], the Palestinian Popular Struggle Front [PPSF], the Palestine Liberation Front [PLF], the Palestinian Arab Front, Al-Saiqah Organization, the Arab Liberation Front, and the Palestinian Democratic Union Party-FIDA.
Competition will be mainly between Fatah and Hamas in the forthcoming elections. The PLO factions will increase Fatah’s chance of winning the presidency. This is particularly that the recent opinion polls have shown that Abbas and dismissed Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh will receive the same number of votes in the event that they nominate themselves for the presidency.
Last week, Abbas directed a letter to Dr Hanna Nasir, chairman of the Central Elections Commission. In his letter, Abbas called on Nasir to have the commission embark on preparations for holding the presidential and legislative elections as scheduled; that is, on the date set by the presidential decree that was issued recently. He also called on the Central Elections Commission to implement this process on time and in accordance with the law, taking into consideration all the aspects involved.
The PLO Executive Committee member said: “No elections will be held without Gaza.” He explained that the PA will work together with Arab states that have influence over Hamas in order to persuade it to hold the elections as scheduled; that is, if reconciliation efforts fail. He added: “If it refuses to hold the elections on time, Hamas will bear the responsibility of thwarting the elections in the homeland.”
Fatah sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that if no reconciliation is achieved, the Central Elections Commission will inform the president that it is not possible to hold the elections, because they are banned in the Gaza Strip.
For his part, Hamas Political Bureau Head Khalid Mishal said that, as far as his movement is concerned, “all options are open” in responding to President Abbas’s decision to hold the legislative and presidential elections in January 2010, in accordance with the decree he issued recently.
In addressing a meeting of Palestinian factions and in a speech he delivered in Damascus last week, Mishal said that Hamas refuses to hold the elections in light of the state of division that the Palestinian arena is witnessing. He added that the presidential decree is a “unilateral, illegal, and illegitimate step.” He added that Abbas is responsible for reinforcing division by issuing the presidential decree that calls for staging elections on 24 January 2010. He stated that Palestinian priorities must be arranged. He said that first, reconciliation must be achieved, and then agreement on holding elections under normal and honest circumstances will be reached. He added that moving toward the staging of elections under the current circumstances aims at rigging its results. He stressed that he believes that it is likely that people will rise against the [forthcoming] election results, as was the case with the previous elections.
Mishal said: “This step proves that the real dispute lies in the political line that they insist to adopt in dealing with many issues, including their absurd negotiations, their handling of the Goldstone Report, their renouncement of the settlement freeze demand, their pursuit of the resistance, and their security dealings with the Israelis and the Americans under the leadership of US General Keith Dayton.” He explained: “These dealings are against the will of the Palestinian people and all shades of the Palestinian resistance.” He stressed that reconciliation also means rearranging the Palestinian internal house by rebuilding the PLO. He said: “This is in addition to changing the political line in order for it to be consistent with what we have agreed in the Palestinian arena, rather than be in compliance with what the International Quartet Committee wants.” He added that this committee calls for recognizing Israel and the agreements signed with it and renouncing violence.
For his part, Islamic Jihad Secretary General Nafith Abdullah Shallah said that: “the decree announced by Abbas has foiled all the efforts that have been made so far to end division and achieve reconciliation and national unity.” He added: “This decree is in defiance of the Palestinian people’s will, thus leading them to an unknown future.”
In a speech he delivered during the factions meeting in Damascus, Shallah said that: “no elections shall be held and no other unilateral steps shall be taken without agreement.” He added: “We do not have the illusion that we are a state. We are a national liberation movement.”