Abbas sacks senior Fatah official ahead of elections

Abbas sacks senior Fatah official ahead of elections

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday expelled Nasser al-Qudwa, a nephew of former PLO chairman Yasser Arafat, from the ruling Fatah faction.

The decision was taken in response to Qudwa’s intention to run in the upcoming parliamentary election as part of an independent list named National Democratic Forum.

Qudwa is hoping that several independent figures and Fatah dissidents would join his list.

The election for the parliament, the Palestinian Legislative Council, has been set for May 22.

Palestinians said that the move was yet another sign of the deepening crisis in Fatah in the aftermath of Abbas’s decision to hold elections for the PA parliament, presidency and the PLO’s legislative body, the Palestinian National Council.

In addition to Qudwa, a number of senior Fatah officials are also considering running on independent lists.

“The decision to expel Qudwa aims to send a warning to other Fatah members who are thinking of forming their own lists,” a veteran Fatah official told The Jerusalem Post. “Any Fatah member who violates our internal regulations will be kicked out.”

Qudwa, 67, a former PA foreign minister, is a member of the Fatah Central Committee, the highest decision-making body of the ruling faction.

In the past few weeks, he boycotted meetings of the committee and was recently quoted as saying that the Palestinian political system needs to undergo real and thorough changes.

Qudwa’s decision to contest the vote as part of an independent list enraged Abbas and several senior Fatah officials.

They fear that Fatah members who run on independent lists would harm the faction’s chances of winning the parliamentary election and benefit their Hamas rivals, as happened in the 2006 parliamentary vote.

Qudwa, in addition, faced criticism for announcing that he would support jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti, if and when the latter presents his candidacy for the presidential election.

The 61-year-old Barghouti is serving five life terms in an Israeli prison for his role in terrorist attacks during the Second Intifada.

Abbas has not announced whether he intends to run in the presidential election, slated for July 31.

The last presidential election was held in January 2005, when Abbas was elected for a four-year term to succeed Arafat, who died in November 2004.

Qudwa was ousted from Fatah after failing to comply with a 48-hour ultimatum to retract his decision to run outside Fatah’s official list, according to a statement issued by Fatah and signed by Abbas, who also heads the faction.

The ultimatum was issued by the Fatah Central Committee during a meeting on March 8 in Ramallah.

The statement accused Qudwa of violating Fatah’s internal regulations and decisions and harming its unity.

The decision to dismiss Qudwa came after attempts by Fatah officials to persuade him to change his mind failed, the statement added.

Mohammed Dahlan, a senior Fatah operative who was expelled from the faction in 2011 after falling out with Abbas, condemned the decision to dismiss Qudwa.

“The decision to dismiss brother Nasser al-Qudwa from Fatah contradicts all the faction’s rules and regulations,” Dahlan, who is based in the United Arab Emirates, said in a statement.

Dahlan, a former PA security commander in the Gaza Strip, warned that the decision would undermine Fatah, “which has never witnessed this degree of tyranny.”

Abbas’s policies have become a “real threat to the interests and unity of the Palestinians and Fatah,” he cautioned.

Another senior Fatah official, Hatem Abdel Qader, expressed regret over Abbas’s decision to dismiss Qudwa. “This is an unfortunate and sad decision,” Abdel Qader said.

The Fatah leadership, he added, should have engaged in a serious dialogue with Qudwa before taking such a drastic measure.

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