4. The view from Ramallah: Electoral pacts coming together and falling apart
The next two weeks will be critical in determining the course of the Palestinian parliamentary elections, Abd Elraouf Arnaout, political correspondent at Al-Ayyam newspaper, writes for Axios.
Why it matters: Barring a last-minute surprise, the first Palestinian legislative elections in 15 years will go ahead on May 22. But there could be many surprises in store before the March 31 deadline to register candidates.
Driving the news: Representatives of the various Palestinian factions are currently meeting in Cairo to decide on the final details of the election process.
- Palestinian officials tell me the door is still open for President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party to run on a joint list with Hamas — though many leaders in the two parties are far from enthusiastic about the idea.
- Hamas says it is studying several options, but its first choice is a national list including Fatah and independent candidates.
- That would be an unprecedented union between two rival groups that have completely opposing views.
For Abbas, the focus has been on keeping Fatah unified and avoiding the 2006 election mistake, when divided Fatah votes helped Hamas win a majority.
- Flashback: On Jan. 25, 2006, many political and diplomatic officials went to sleep expecting a Fatah victory only to wake up to a massive Hamas triumph.
Abbas has succeeded in convincing activists close to popular Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti, who is in an Israeli jail, not to form an independent electoral list.
- A Barghouti associate, Hatem Abdel Qader, said the imprisoned leader supports a unified Fatah list in the legislative elections, but he reserves the right to run in the presidential elections, which are set to take place on July 31.
But Abbas did not succeed in dissuading Nasser al-Qudwa, a nephew of the late Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, from heading a list of independents in the elections. Qudwa was dismissed from Fatah's central committee as a result.
- Other Fatah activists hinted at the possibility of running on independent lists if excluded from the official Fatah list.
- Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Mohammed Dahlan said the exiled politician would be forming his own list, and former independent Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, who has been in the United States for several years, also plans to form a list, which could take votes from Fatah.
The other side: In a secret election, the Hamas leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, barely managed to defeat Nizar Awadallah to win a second four-year term.
- Observers say that this is a sign of competition for control of Hamas between the current and former heads of the political bureau, Ismail Haniyeh and Khaled Meshal.
Worth noting: Despite the election fever, no opinion polls have been published to demonstrate the strength of the various lists in the Palestinian street.