OPT: Fatah to resume primaries for Palestinian polls
RAMALLAH, West Bank, Nov 30 (AFP) - The ruling Palestinian Fatah faction decided Wednesday to resume its primaries to select candidates for January parliamentary polls which had been halted amid violence and fraud.
"The central committee has decided to continue with the primaries in all areas where they have so far not taken place and as quickly as possible," deputy prime minister Nabil Shaath told reporters.
Fatah's main governing body, chaired by Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas, had been meeting to decide what to do about the primaries -- initially scheduled to take place in Gaza and the West Bank last Friday.
The vote was later delayed in most areas and then aborted following outbreaks of violence and serious violations of voting procedure.
The head of the Fatah commission charged with supervising the ballots, Ahmed al-Diq, said on Tuesday that voting in 10 West Bank constituencies where it had yet to take place had been halted as a result of fraud.
But several Fatah officials appealed for the primaries to plough on and voting went ahead on Tuesday in Israeli-annexed and occupied east Jerusalem despite extremely low turnout.
More than 300,000 Fatah members are eligible to choose the 132 candidates who will represent the party in the first Palestinian legislative election in a decade, only the second ever such parliamentary vote.
One top Fatah official, Azzam al-Ahmed, said preparations were underway to hold primaries in the West Bank towns of Hebron, Tulkarem and Salfit on Friday.
Before Wednesday's central committee meeting, Abbas said that whatever the decision, Fatah would submit its list of candidates on schedule so that the January 25 vote could go ahead as planned.
His party, which has dominated parliament and the cabinet for a decade, faces a fierce challenge from the powerful Islamist movement Hamas in the election, when the group contests its first legislative ballot.
A spokesman for Hamas had said that Fatah's decision to suspend the primaries would undermine confidence in the Palestinian democratic process.
The registration of candidates is due to begin on December 3 and close on December 14, while the actual election campaign will start on January 3.
The Palestinian Legislative Council passed a new law in June increasing the number of MPs from 88 to 132, stipulating that half be elected under a system of proportional representation and half by traditional constituencies.
Copyright (c) 2005 Agence France-Presse
Received by NewsEdge Insight: 11/30/2005 09:07:21
©AFP: The information provided in this product is for personal use only. None of it may be reproduced in any form whatsoever without the express permission of Agence France-Presse.