Inside Israel and the Palestinian Territories
Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss?
Will Fatah supporters get fooled again?
As election results for the Central Committee trickle in, general opinion has swayed back and forth as to their probable significance.
With at least half of the names announced this morning considered “fresh faces,” the mood today started out upbeat. Our correspondent, Ali Sawafta, noted that about three political generations were represented in the new Committee, offering a wider spectrum of viewpoints reformists say are neccessary to revive the movement.
Some signs considered positive were the election of the Israeli imprisoned Marwan Barghouti (read more here), who is a popular leader seen as a potential future president. There were several big names to make the list of elected members to the Central Committee, such as Mohammed Dahlan and Sa’ab Erekat. Read their short profiles here.
“This is an unexpected result. It’s a big change, a huge change,” said Naser al-Kidwa, in our latest article. Kidwa, a nephew of Yasser Arafat, just won a Central Committee seat.
But enthusiasm waned as the afternoon wore on and conference delegates announced that election results were not final. Four candidates were elected with only one vote difference between them, making the results highly contested. There have now been two recounts, leading many to suspect there is some dirty play at hand. Some voiced concern that old Council members who lost their seats might try to regain a spot under the cover of the recount process.
But even before counting began yesterday, Fatah reformist member Hussam Khader complained about election procedures. “It is not just that the procedures were dubious, it’s the mentality. There is no culture of democracy,” he said. Khodar made headlines early on in the conference when he challenged Mahmoud Abbas for not having compiled any reports of spending and political procedures in the movement since its last conference, held 20 years ago in Tunis.
Meanwhile Bethlehem residents are getting impatient to reclaim their city from this marathon congress, with neccessities like electricity, water–and beer–said to be running short due to excess demand. “They’re like a plague of locusts” complained one resident. His companion gave it a positive spin, saying: “At least they’re not like the Christian tourists. They like Arabic food.”
Vote counting for the Central Committee as well as the larger Revolutionary Council should be done by late tomorrow, but after so many delays, it’s hard to say for sure. And the longer it takes, the more people start to doubt that initial signs of change are more than a mirage.
“If this is only about new people getting the office and the car, then nothing changes,” said Khader.
PHOTOS: Top left, A Palestinian woman stands in front of posters depicting President Mahmoud Abbas during a rally supporting the Fatah movement in the Balata refugee camp near the West Bank city of Nablus, August 9, 2009. REUTERS/Abed Omar Qusini. Bottom Right, Employees of the Fatah election committee count ballots during the Fatah congress in the West Bank town of Bethlehem August 10, 2009. REUTERS/Nayef Hashmaloun