Fatah:Postpone PA Elections?

The Fatah party considers filing an appeal to postpone next month’s local PA elections due to the increased likelihood of an embarrassing defeat.

Avi Yellin, | updated: 07:26

PA prime minister Salam Fayyad
PA prime minister Salam Fayyad
Israel news photo: Flash 90
The American-backed Fatah movement is deciding whether or not to file an appeal with its Elections Committee to postpone next month’s local Palestinian Authority elections due to the increased likelihood of an embarrassing defeat at the ballots.

PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, a former economist for the International Monetary Fund handpicked by former United States President George W. Bush to lead the PA, considers next month's elections to be crucial as they will serve as an indicator of public support for his policies of building infrastructure and institutions for a future Arab state in Judea and Samaria. If voters are likely to reject Fayyad and his agenda, the PA and its backers overseas may prefer that elections be postponed for the foreseeable future.

One of the many challenges currently facing Fatah on the local level is internal disagreements within its own faction. The party has not yet been able to reach an agreement over the candidates for many municipalities and councils. This crisis is being compounded by the fact that in many places a list of senior Fatah officials is expected to compete with the party's official list. Many faction leaders fear that Fatah's public image has been significantly tarnished as a result of the internal rift.

Fatah has also failed to ward off mounting pressures from the leaders of large local clans. The clan leaders, who by and large were content living under Israeli sovereignty and protection, lost their influence to the American-backed PA in the mid-1990s when Yasser Arafat and his Fatah-led Palestinian Liberation Organization were brought in from Tunisia, supplied by Israel with arms under the Oslo Accords and given control over local municipalities and schools. Gun battles ensued in many Arab towns but the PLO ultimately emerged victorious largely due to superior weaponry and international support. The clans – who have seen their influence dwindle over the last two decades since the PA’s establishment – have consequently held on to the local authorities with all their power.

"The clans in Hebron have made it clear that they are not interested in factional elections but rather in the division of the council according to a clan hierarchy," a Fatah spokesman recently said to local journalists. "People in the clans told us: 'Fatah, Hamas, we don't care about any of these. We want our own people regardless of their party affiliation.' No one so far has had the courage to confront the clans, and according to estimations the elections in Hebron will be clan-based and not according to party distribution."
Another matter pushing Fatah to postpone next month’s elections is the fear that Hamas supporters will back Fatah opponents despite Hamas' official announcement last month that it will boycott the elections. Such a scenario could potentially be catastrophic for the agendas of Western powers in the region, including the Barack Obama administration’s current efforts to force Israel to surrender Judea, Samaria and most of Jerusalem to the Fatah-run PA.

In the upcoming days, Fatah will consider appeasing disgruntled party elders who are threatening to run independently. If this measure proves unsuccessful, the faction is planning to officially appeal to the elections committee in an effort to postpone next month’s vote.  The Arab street is not expected to react well to such a move but for Fatah and its Western backers, this is preferable to suffering electoral humiliation and being forced to return power to local clan leaders who may be more interested in solving local problems than in fighting Israel.