Abbas seeks rival's isolation with election power-play

Abbas seeks rival's isolation with election power-play
Holding elections before the end of the year could enable Abbas to block the leadership aspirations of exiled rival and former ally Mohammed Dahlan.
2 min read
20 October, 2016
Abbas and Mohammed Dahlan are former allies but are no longer on good terms [Getty]

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is seeking elections in the Fatah movement and the PLO before the end of the year in order to block the return of an exiled rival who has the support of several Arab states.

Abbas, who is 81, has no plans to step down as leader and is keen to prevent the nomination of Mohammed Dahlan, a former aide and multimillionaire businessman who has formed close ties with Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates, in addition to other regional states, during his exile.

The last Fatah convention was held in 2008. A further convention was scheduled to take place in 2013 however it was indefinitely postponed in part because of Abbas’ concerns that Dahlan enjoyed strong support.

Abbas and Dahlan are former allies, and during the 1990’s – when Palestinians won limited self-rule in Gaza and parts of the West Bank following an interim peace-deal with Israel -- Dahlan headed a notorious internal security force in Gaza.

However, they have fallen out with Dahlan making thinly veiled corruption allegations against two of Abbas’ businessman sons in 2010. Dahlan, himself, has been convicted on corruption charges in Palestine, and would face the prospect of arrest if he returned to the West Bank without Abbas’ blessing.

November 29 has been tentatively set as the start date for Fatah elections, with a vote for the PLO’s Executive Committee set to follow a month later.

Whether they will take place or not remains an issue of contention given previous postponements, the fact that some senior Fatah officials are wary of losing their jobs, and the fact that the election process requires Israel’s approval to allow exiled members to enter Palestinian territories.

Since Fatah’s last general convention in 2013 many of Dahlan’s affiliates have been purged from the group and two weeks ago, seemingly wary of Abbas’ power move, supporters of the exiled Palestinian political figure took to the streets in Gaza to protest Abbas’ decision to convene a Fatah election.

Dahlan has urged Fatah officials to halt the convention claiming that they are intended to exclude him.

Agencies contributed to this report