Arch-terrorist and former Fatah Tanzim chief Marwan Barghouti is planning a run for the Palestinian Authority presidency, his wife told the Amman-based Al-Arab Al-Yawm newspaper on Wednesday.
Last September, PA President Mahmoud Abbas announced plans to retire, but failed to offer a time frame for new elections.
While the 80-year-old PA leader pledged not to run in the next presidential election, Western observers were skeptical of Abbas’ claims, noting that elections have been routinely delayed.
The first presidential election in the PA was held in 1996, when Yasser Arafat won against token opposition. No further elections for the position were held until 2005, following Arafat’s death. Following his victory in 2005, Abbas has never stood for reelection. What was ostensibly a four-year term in office has become a de facto 11-year term.
Nor is Abbas’ most recent pledge of retirement his first. The PA President claimed in 2006 that he would not seek reelection and would retire when a successor was chosen.
Abbas’ rivals within the Palestinian Authority have slammed his indefinite tenure, calling on prominent PA figures to challenge him. In 2005 Mustafa Barghouti, a cousin of Marwan Barghouti, ran against Abbas, winning 20% of the vote.
Today, opposition to Abbas may be coalescing around Marwan Barghouti. The former Tanzim leader enjoys significant support both among Fatah members and Hamas.
Barghouti is currently serving five life sentences in Israel for his role in orchestrating a wave of deadly terror attacks against Israel. While Hamas attempted to use the kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit as a bargaining chip to gain Barghouti’s release, Israel has thus far refused to put the terrorist mastermind’s freedom on the negotiating table.