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The Palestinian Political Situation

Overview of the Palestinian Presidential Election

International Middle East Media Center
Special Report
December 28, 2004

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In the coming January 9 Palestinian presidential election, three parties are running candidates, and four independents are also running – 7 candidates in total are running for the position of president.

Mahmoud Abbas, of the Fateh party, is the leading candidate in the polls.. His recent visits to several Arab countries to restore relations indicates that he would like to have a strong Arab role in the peace process, a peace process that he is offering to begin immediately upon taking office in order to achieve a two-state solution through non-violent means. But his objection to a “militarized” al-Aqsa Intifada and his pledge to collect weapons from Palestinian groups has put him at odds with Fateh’s younger generation, specifically its military wing.

Jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti was the favorite until he dropped out of the race December 12, encouraging his supporters to turn their allegiance to Mahmoud Abbas. But he made his withdrawal conditional on the Fateh party maintaining certain demands. Fuad Kokali of Fateh.

Dr. Mustapha Barghouti, second behind Abbas, is currently polling at around 20%. Dr. Barghouti is the president of the Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committees, the largest non-governmental organization providing healthcare to Palestinians. Dr. Barghouti was arrested on Monday, December 27th while campaigning in East Jerusalem, just one day after the Israeli Knesset agreed to allow candidates to campaign in Jerusalem. Bahia Barghouti is with his campaign committee.

Dr. Barghouti was also beaten in mid-December by Israeli soldiers who jeered and laughed at him while hitting him on the head and back. He is the second presidential candidate to be arrested by Israel, and five candidates for the municipal elections remain in jail after being arrested while campaigning.

Other presidential candidates include Taysir Khaled, who resigned from the PLO executive committee in 1993 after serving two years as the representative of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), a Marxist-Leninist group. Khaled resigned in protest over the PLO’s signing of the Oslo Accords with Israel. He is backed by the DFLP, whose secretary-general Nayif Hawatmeh lives in exile. Bassam al-Salhi is backed by the Palestinian People’s Party, formerly the Palestinian Communist Party. The 44-year-old al-Salhi severed time in Israeli prisons during the 1980s and 1990s for leading student protests against the Camp David Accords between Israel and Egypt.

Though there has been talk of a leftist coalition which would combine the constituencies of these candidates, no such coalition has materialized, and the leftist People's Front for the Liberation of Palestine or PFLP, is planning to boycott the elections. Mohamed al-Atar, of Bassam al-Salhi's campaign: “we have always been open to any such coalition...”

The other three candidates, all independents, are Abdel Halim al-Ashqar, Abdel Karim Shaber, and Alsaied Barakah.

The results of the December 23 municipal elections in the West Bank indicate a strong showing for Hamas, whose platform includes a Palestinian Islamic state. But Hamas is planning to boycott the January 9th presidential elections, stating that elections are impossible while under military occupation.

While the Israeli foreign minister promised that Palestinians would be able to have freedom of movement for the election process, the Palestinian Authority has noted that no steps have been taken to that effect. Amar Dwik is with the Central Elections Committee:

“The occupation is causing many problems – for example, in Gaza, people whose homes were destroyed this past weekend are living in schools - and we are supposed to use the schools as polling stations. we have problems of freedom of movement, candidates can't go from the west bank to gaza and vice versa...”

Meanwhile, the first election observers have started to arrive in the country to monitor the campaign process. Siobhan is an Irish election observer who flew in to Tel Aviv on December 21, and was subjected to searches and questioning for several hours, and finally made to sign a paper saying that she would not make contact with the election observation organization (in this case, the ISM)

Despite the harassment of election observers, the beatings and arrests of several of the candidates by Israeli soldiers, and the daily, ongoing violence of the Israeli military occupation, the Palestinian people are determined to carry out Presidential elections on January 9th.

Amar Dwik of the Central Elections Committee.

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Additional Resources

Website – Dr. Mustapha Barghouthi’s Campaign

Mahmoud Abbas’ biography on PA Website


Palestinian Liberation Organization

The Palestinian Initiative

Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine

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