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Observers call Fatah conference a successful coup against old guard

Aug. 11, 2009 10:02 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 13, 2009 10:10 A.M.)
Bethlehem - Ma'an - Analysts, observers, and former Palestinian ministers labeled the Sixth Fatah Congress a success even before the final ballot count was complete on Tuesday night.

“The Fatah movement was re-born, it became stronger and more united, making the movement capable of dealing with all sorts of challenges both internally and externally,” one analyst said shortly before Fatah officials announced that results from the Revolutionary Council elections, which will determine 80 out of 130 spots on the second highest ruling body of the party, would not be announced until Wednesday.

Preliminary results from the Central Council elections - the party’s highest body - were announced early Tuesday, but a one-vote margin between those in the 18th, 19th, and 20th places (there are 18 elected seats on the council) prompted a recount.

Former Palestinian minister of prisoners' affairs Ashraf Al-Ajrami said the revitalization of the governing bodies meant those responsible for “a large part of the failures of Fatah” are no longer in the party’s leadership.

"Despite the lack of just accountability [within Fatah over the last 20 years], many from the old generation were held accountable today when they failed in elections for the Central Committee," Al-Ajrami said.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was described as the “biggest winner” by Al-Ajrami and dozens of observers, who noted he came out of the congress with legitimate support and a strong mandate to lead.

Political analyst Hani Al-Masri called the election of a “new generation” to the Central Committee as "white coup against the old generation who played a role in the loss of legislative elections and the fall of Gaza to Hamas."

Most of those announced as Central Council members, however, have held a government position at some point in their careers. No women were elected to the committee.

Al-Masri warned, however, that Fatah’s rejuvenated appearance would have to be sustained by “implementation of programs and plans to build the movement's institutions apart from the Palestinian Authority.”

He went on to say that "Fatah isn't afraid of signing agreement with Hamas anymore, because in the past, the weak Fatah was afraid that Hamas might swallow it."

Talal 'Ukal, another political analyst, said the number of candidates on the Fatah ballot indicated a “new beginning” for the party, wherein a new leadership was “declaring a coup” against the old guard.

"What happened in Bethlehem was a coup against Fatah weakness. Furthermore, new doors have been knocked such as resistance which was clear in president Abbas' opening speech when he applauded peaceful resistance in Bil'in," he added.

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