Fatah is still preparing candidate list, says official, but coalition with Hamas is possible

Members of the Palestinian Central Elections Commission hang a sign reading in Arabic 'voter information and registration centre' in Al-Khalil-Hebron, February 2021(Hazem Bader - AFP)

Middle East Monitor  /  March 23, 2021

A senior member of the Fatah Central Committee said on Monday that the movement has been giving its members weeks to prepare a list of possible candidates for the upcoming Palestinian elections. “An assessment of the situation by regional committees will be submitted to the Revolutionary Council and the Central Committee to approve the candidates and the list during the next week,” Hussein al-Sheikh told Radio Alam.

Al-Sheikh explained that Fatah is sticking to its “clear and strategic” position that there will be no elections without the Palestinians in Jerusalem, candidates and voters alike. The government of Israel, however, has not yet responded on this issue. Fatah is also insisting on the right of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel to stand as candidates and to vote.

The movement is still looking at a candidate list in alliance with independents and some parties that wish to do so. “There is no veto on forming an election coalition with Hamas, and we are the first to put this forward, but this does not affect the context of the elections at all.” Indeed, he added, forming a government without Hamas is “impossible”.

The Fatah official pointed out that having a unified list means that Nasser al-Qudwa, who left the movement over this point, will not be on it. “He decided to maintain his stance and contradict Fatah’s regulations, which prompted the Central Committee to dismiss him.”

When asked about possible candidates in the presidential election, Al-Sheikh claimed that he had not asked Marwan Barghouti not to run for the position. “We had a calm discussion on the need for unity,” he said. “It is an exaggeration to say that Fatah is divided.”

Moreover, he noted that Israel tried to pressure Fatah not to hold the elections, but this was resisted. “Only the Palestinian Authority has a say in this matter.”

Looking ahead, Al-Sheikh said that if Fatah wins the legislative election, it will call for the immediate formation of a Government of National Unity. “We will invite Hamas to participate because we firmly believe that the legislative election can pave the way for unifying the nation and ending the division. If we lose, and the winner invites us to participate in a Government of National Unity, Fatah will immediately agree to the request.” He confirmed that the movement will in any case ensure a smooth transition of power. “The proof is that we handed over the government to Hamas in 2006.”

In conclusion, Al-Sheikh said that reconciliation with former Fatah official Mohammad Dahlan “is not on the table” and cancelling the elections is out of the question.