In challenge to Abbas, Palestinian Barghouti to reportedly back rival candidates

In a dramatic turn of events in the Palestinian legislative elections, Palestinian prisoner Marwan Barghouti has decided to run his own list of candidates in the upcoming vote, according to Palestinian media reports.

There was no official confirmation from any Barghouti associates.

Barghouti was convicted by Israel of masterminding several terror attacks during the Second Intifada and is currently serving multiple life sentences in Israeli prison. Nonetheless, he enjoys widespread popularity among Palestinians, many of whom see him as a symbol of resistance untainted by corruption.

A Palestinian man gestures in front of a poster bearing the portrait of jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti, during a rally marking Palestinian Prisoner Day in Gaza City on April 17, 2016. (AFP PHOTO/MAHMUD HAMS)

A recent survey found that if Barghouti formed a breakaway political faction within Fatah, his candidates would defeat Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s bloc: 28% of those polled said they would vote for Barghouti’s list while 22% said they would vote for Abbas’s list.

Some 25 Palestinian factions have submitted parliamentary lists to the Central Elections Commission, including both the Hamas terror group and exiled ex-Fatah member Mohammad Dahlan, a key opponent of PA President Mahmoud Abbas.

Fatah has delayed submitting its own list of candidates. Officials have said they intend to send the list to the commission before the Wednesday deadline.