Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will be the ruling Fatah party’s presidential nominee in the scheduled Palestinian election, PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh told Qatar-backed Al-Araby News on Wednesday.
“There is a consensus in Fatah around nominating Abbas,” said Shtayyeh, in excerpts from the interview released by the TV network. The full interview is set to run on Thursday night.
But other Palestinian officials cast doubt on the announcement, saying that the Fatah Central Committee needs to first convene to choose a slate.
Abbas, 85, issued a decree on Friday night ordering the first Palestinian elections in 14 years. There are three rounds of elections currently scheduled: parliamentary elections set for May 22 and presidential elections for July 31. Elections for the Palestinian National Committee — the legislative body of the Palestine Liberation Organization — are set for August 31.
Presidential elections were last called after Palestinian Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat died in 2004. The last presidential elections were held on January 9, 2005, which ended with Abbas victorious.
The Palestinians — split between Fatah, which rules in the West Bank, and Hamas, which controls Gaza — have not had national elections for nearly 14 years. The two major Palestinian political movements have been at loggerheads since 2006, in when the Hamas terror group took a majority of seats in parliamentary elections.
The political crisis led to a brief civil war for control of the Gaza Strip, which ended with Abbas’s Fatah movement being expelled to the West Bank.
Abbas issued a decree last Friday ordering new elections, although analysts are skeptical that they will take place. Several similar announcements that Palestinians would return to the ballot box have fizzled out over recent years.
Local municipal elections have been held in the West Bank twice, with Hamas largely boycotting the proceedings. Abbas has also publicly pledged to hold elections on several occasions — but each attempt flopped before it came to fruition.
Abbas has also indicated before that he did not wish to seek another term. In 2009, the last time an electoral decree was formally issued, Abbas said that he had made a final decision not to run in the coming Palestinian elections.
Fatah Secretary-General Jibril Rajoub announced on Wednesday night that the Fatah Central Committee would meet on Sunday to discuss the election issue.
But Abbas could be a controversial candidate, as his long rule has made him unpopular with some parts of the Palestinian public. Just under two-thirds of Palestinians think Abbas should resign, according to a recent opinion poll conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research.
In another poll conducted by the Center, Abbas and Hamas terror chief Ismail Haniyeh would receive 39% of the vote and the latter 52% if they were the only two candidates running.
Some senior Fatah officials did not appear to be satisfied with Shtayyeh’s announcement. In a series of statements to the Palestinian news outlet Dunya al-Watan, Fatah Central Committee Abbas Zaki said that the decision to nominate its presidential nominee lay with the Central Committee, which had not met since mid-October.
“There has been no decision regarding [Fatah’s] presidential or legislative candidates,” Zaki said.
Zaki further criticized Abbas’s method of conducting affairs within the Fatah movement, lamenting what he deemed to be excessive secrecy regarding Abbas’s recent meetings with intelligence officials from Egypt and Jordan.
The meetings — also attended by Palestinian intelligence chief Majed Faraj, one of Abbas’s closest confidantes — were reportedly associated with the aging Palestinian leader’s announcement that elections were on the way.
“If our movement was sound, with good intentions and functioning as a movement should, we ought to be informed of the details of the meeting, with a short circular, which keeps us in the loop; instead, there are just two or three [officials] who know everything,” Zaki said.