[[Jerusalem Times: Opinion]]


December 15, 2005


This week in Palestine….. Behind the news with Hanna Siniora


The Future?


The two Fateh lists, one of them – the alternative “young guard’s” list named "The Future" have been submitted to the Central Elections Committee in Ramallah.  Ms. Fadwa Barghouthi, Marwan Barghouthi's wife accompanied by Mohammed Dahlan and others submitted the alternative young guard Fateh list.  It included Kadoura Faris and Jibril Rajoub, Ahmed Ghaneim, and others.  What is significant is that this list has the blessing of Farouk Qaddoumi, who legitimized it.  He is the most prominent rival of Mahmoud Abbas. Jibril Rojoub is in Tunis lobbying influential Fateh leaders Mahar Ghreim, Qaddoumi and others in favor of the young guard list.


A few hours later, Foreign Minister Nasser Qadwa, member of Fateh's Revolutionary Council came to register the official Fateh list, also headed by Marwan Barghouthi, with Intissar Al-Wazir in the number two seat, Abu Ali Yata a prisoner in third place, PM Ahmad Qurei in fourth place, Rawhi Fattouh, the speaker of the PLC and ex-interim president, in fifth place.  The official Fateh list has 66 candidates, and in a symbolic move, the Foreign Minister Nasser Qadwa opted for the 66th position to show his support for the official list.  It should be noted that Farouk Qaddoumi, whose office claims to be known legitimate side that supervises the Palestinian diplomatic corps is in ongoing dispute with Qadwa over who has the right to appoint Palestinian representatives (diplomatic appointees).


The battle inside Fateh is not only about the young guard against the old guard, but the fighting has spread between those who support Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas) and Abu Lutof (Farouk Qaddoumi) and in this case, the alternative Fateh list is seeking the backing of the Fateh leadership in Tunis, thus in effect undermining the leadership of Mahmoud Abbas.


Veteran analysts predict that this division will not last, and that for the best interests of the Fateh movement, the two lists would eventually merge, pointing that Marwan Barghouthi is the consensus candidate who is heading both lists, citing that in the earlier presidential elections, Barghouthi initially challenged Abbas for this office, yet eventually an understanding was reached that left Abbas unchallenged in the presidential election (within his movement).


Hamas List


The Hamas list was no surprise, although one of its leading moderate members Ismail Haniyeh headed the list, and its most conspicuous leader Dr. Mahmoud Al Zahar got the number nine spot.  Hamas' national list did not fill all 66 seats, only 62 candidates names were submitted but these included eight women and several prisoners.  All of 62 names are prominently displayed in the daily press and includes several independent leaning intellectuals who are supportive of Hamas.


In the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and East Jerusalem, Hamas conducted an impressive campaign to register voters.  Their ability to work in a cohesive and united responsible way, against a divided Fateh camp, and a more fragmented secular democratic third option with nine separate lists, is a clear indicator that Hamas has the chance to register an impressive victory in the January 2006 legislative elections.


The Third Option


Dr Hanna Nasser, the head of the Central Elections Committee announced after the closure of registration midnight the 14th of December, that 12 national lists have registered, nine fall under the “democratic third option” classification.  These 12 lists have the possibility of each contesting all 66 seats or some of them.  Only the official Fateh list filled all seats – 66 names appearing on the list.  Those seats would be selected by proportional voting and a list to qualify would need at least 15,000 to 20,000 votes depending on the voter turnout.


The most prominent lists in the third option are the "Freedom" list of the ex-Finance Minister, Salam Fayyad, PLC member Hanan Ashwari, PLO executive member Yasser Abed Rabbo, businessman Khaled Oseileh, Jerusalemite Abdul Qader Husseini, the son of the late Faisel Husseini and about 20 other members.  This list will gain support from the voters who are serious about reform, democratic values, economic development and responsibility.  The "Future" list at the most can expect six to eight members and would ally itself with the Fateh list in post election and government coalition.  The "Independent Falastin" list is the coalition among independents and supporters of Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi who received 23% of the vote when he contested the presidential elections against Mahmoud Abbas earlier this year.  This "Falastin" list would probably get three to five mandates.  Other third option lists, "Badil" the alternative list a coalition of three parties under the PLO umbrella (DFLP, FIDA and People Party) would gather two to three seats.


The PFLP list headed by its leader Ahmad Saadat, who is under arrest in Jericho, would possibly receive also two to three seats.  The other third-party lists have much less support and might have little chance of gaining representation in the Legislative Council.


District elections


More than 4000 candidates are contesting the local district elections, in 16 different districts that the remaining 66 seats comprise the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem districts.  Here the election fever is also very heated, and again Fateh is divided and might present more than one last, the independents are fragmented and still are unable to organize efficiently, and again Hamas has already announced its candidates from among Hamas activists and respected qualified independent candidates.


The picture here indicates that Hamas will get a respectable result that belays the fact that the polls so far show that Hamas will receive 20% of the vote and Fateh double that number.


In conclusion, if in the next two weeks up to January 2, Fateh and the other parties do not put their houses in order, it will not be surprising that Hamas will emerge victorious.