PA Security Accused of Intimidating Those Who Run Against Official Fatah List
Hamas, Reformist Democratic faction-Fatah officially submit lists ahead of midnight on March 31 deadline
Both Hamas, the Islamist movement that governs the Palestinian Gaza Strip, and the Reformist Democratic faction within the Fatah party officially submitted their candidates lists for the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) on Monday.
With less than 48 hours to go, other factions are scrambling to beat the deadline of midnight on March 31 and finalize their lists before submitting them to the Central Elections Commission.
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), and the newly formed Democratic National Assembly have not yet submitted their lists.
Elections for the PLC are scheduled to be held in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem on May 22.
Nour Odeh, a member of the steering committee for the Democratic National Assembly, told The Media Line that faction leaders are concluding their “efforts to finalize and submit the list in line with the law.”
The head of the Democratic National Assembly is Nasser al-Qudwa, a former Palestinian envoy to the United Nations, and the nephew of the late Yasir Arafat, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ predecessor. Qudwa says the aim of the assembly is to bring about change, because the time for reform for the Palestinians has passed.
Qudwa, 67, has been at odds with Abbas’ policies for some time. He announced in early March the formation of the Palestinian Democratic National Assembly which according to Odeh includes many academic, economic and political figures from across the ideological spectrum.
Abbas announced in January that a legislative election would be held in May, followed by a presidential poll in July.
Qudwa came under tremendous pressure from Abbas, and from other top Fatah officials, who chastised him for daring to run in a list independent of the movement. Qudwa supporters say that since announcing his intention to oppose Abbas’ list, there has been a major fake news campaign to discredit Qudwa.
Odeh, who served as the PA government’s first female spokesperson, says the campaign has rattled many in Fatah.
“For sure! I don’t say this out of arrogance, but I say it because the program was born out of collective work. Real hard work of the people,” she said.
Odeh said that the assembly has a wide range of support from the Palestinian people because “they agree with us that there is a need for change.”
“We have a clear political program, people came to us and they volunteer with us and participate in the committees, there is a high sense of ownership,” she said.
Abbas expelled a senior Fatah party official for his decision to field an independent list of candidates in upcoming Palestinian legislative elections, another sign of the internal chaos, turmoil and division inside the ruling movement.
“Overall, ordinary Palestinians are fed up with the status quo, they are fed up with the lack of transparency, lack of freedom, they are fed up with feeling like, as citizens, they have no say and no participation in their daily lives and their destiny. What we are trying to do is to change that,” Odeh said.
We are under tremendous pressure from the PA security forces against people who they suspect as members of our electoral list, also the grassroots activists that are working door to door helping our campaign
Political activists and those who have publicly showed an interest in running accuse PA security forces of intimidation.
Multiple credible sources have told The Media Line that they have received direct and indirect threats for working on the Qudwa campaign.
“Yes, there is a lot of pressure, extreme pressure, direct and indirect pressure including the ‘friendly’ phone calls from friends trying to persuade you to not run, also intimidating phone calls from security,” one source said.
They have refused to be identified for fear of retribution.
Dimitri Diliani, spokesperson of the Reformist Democratic faction within Fatah, affiliated with Mohammed Dahlan, told The Media Line that they too were threatened. Dahlan, a former Fatah security chief, now lives in exile in the United Arab Emirates.
“We are under tremendous pressure from the PA security forces against people who they suspect as members of our electoral list, also the grassroots activists that are working door to door helping our campaign,” Diliani said.
Diliani alleges that the security forces have applied pressure on family members, and through people who are powerful and influential within the community.
He also says that the list has the widest support among Palestinians, and that the list is made up of the leaders of the democratic reform movement in Fatah and includes a “balance of national figures from the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and Jerusalem who will participate with the reform movement in its vision of the need to change the status quo in the West Bank and Gaza.”
Diliani would not disclose the names of the nominated personalities on the list.
Other names expected to run, but yet to declare their alliances: Salam Fayyad, a former prime minister of the Palestinian Authority; and Marwan Barghouti, an influential Fatah leader who is serving five life sentences plus 40 years in an Israeli prison, after being convicted of being responsible for multiple killings during the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising. Barghouti’s supporters say he is still considering a run
A recently published public opinion poll from the Ramallah-based Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PCPSR) showed that a majority of Palestinians prefer Barghouti over Abbas, Dahlan and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh. When asked who they would like to see as the next president, 22% of respondents chose Barghouti, 14% Haniyeh, 9% Abbas and 3% Dahlan.
A Palestinian official in Ramallah told The Media Line that the PA had asked foreign diplomats to intervene with Israel so that it will allow Palestinians in east Jerusalem to take part in the elections, as they did in the last elections in 2006.
The PA, according to the official, is asking for at least a dozen polling station throughout east Jerusalem. Israel has yet to officially give its position on whether it will allow the Palestinians to set up polling stations in the city.
The Central Elections Commission announced earlier that it had not received a response yet regarding holding the elections in east Jerusalem.