Fatah leaders were quick to declare victory in the October 20 local elections in the West Bank [Judea and Samaria -Ed.]. But the results of the vote for 93 municipal and village councils show that the vote was anything but a victory.
True, in some cities and villages, Fatah did win a majority of seats.
But this is not the same Fatah that Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas and the old guard leadership of the faction had backed.
Boycotted by Hamas, this was an election where Abbas’s veteran Fatah leadership mainly competed with Fatah candidates who decided to run on an independent ticket.
In the end, the Fatah “rebels” scored major victories in important cities, such as Jenin, Nablus and Ramallah, as well as many villages.
Abbas and the veteran Fatah leadership tried up to the last minute to dissuade the disgruntled members of his faction from running as independents, but to no avail.
The Fatah Central Committee, a body dominated by Abbas loyalists, later decided to expel all the Fatah candidates who insisted on running in the election separately.
The results of the elections show that many of the Fatah candidates who were dismissed scored significant victories. Candidates who were expelled from Fatah defeated those who expelled them: Abbas and old guard Fatah leaders.
Even in places where Abbas’s Fatah candidates won, the vote was on the basis of clan affiliation. Many Palestinians voted for Abbas’s Fatah candidates not because they were satisfied with the old guard leadership of Fatah, but simply because the candidate happened to belong to their clan.
What is perhaps most worrying for Abbas is the fact that a large number of his policemen and security officers voted for the dissident Fatah candidates who ran against the Palestinian Authority’s nominees.
Moreover, low voter turnout in many cities and villages is seen as a sign of indifference on the part of Palestinians in the West Bank. Palestinian analysts are convinced that had Hamas participated in the elections, turnout would have been much higher and the Islamist movement would easily have defeated a divided Fatah.
The low turnout and the success of Fatah rebels in the elections should be seen as a vote of no-confidence in Abbas and the old guard leadership of his ruling faction.
For decades, Abbas and his veteran loyalists in Fatah have blocked the emergence of fresh and younger leaders – something that has seriously affected Fatah’s credibility. Failure to reform Fatah and get rid of corrupt officials has also driven many Palestinians away from Abbas and his loyalists.
Abbas’s term in office expired in January 2009, but this has not stopped him from continuing to cling to power. In wake of the results of the local elections, it has become obvious that Abbas does not have a mandate — even from his Fatah faction — to embark on any significant political move, such as signing a peace treaty with Israel or applying for membership for a Palestinian state in the UN.
Instead of going to New York next month to ask for Palestinian membership, Abbas should stay in Ramallah and work toward reuniting and reforming Fatah before his political rivals drive him and his veteran loyalists out of office.
Originally published by the Gatestone Institute.