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Middle east

Jailed Barghouti elected to top Fatah committee

Video by Richard TOMPSETT

Text by Mehdi CHEBIL

Latest update : 2009-08-11

Marwan Barghouti, a popular Palestinian politician who is currently serving five life sentences in an Israeli jail, has been elected to a leading post in President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah movement, according to initial results.

Marwan Barghouti, serving five life sentences in Israel, was elected Tuesday to a top post in Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party, according to results released on Tuesday.

About 2,000 delegates cast their ballots over the weekend to elect a new guard at its first congress in 20 years, held in the West Bank city of Bethlehem.

The 51-year-old Palestinian politician rose to prominence during the second Intifada in 2000 when he led Fatah’s armed “Tanzim” unit against Israeli forces. A popular figure among Palestinians for his commitment to resistance, he was once seen as a potential successor to historic leader Yasser Arafat.

But his political career was put on hold when he was arrested by Israeli soldiers in Ramallah in 2002. He was tried in a civil court and handed five life sentence for organising the killing of five Israelis; charges which he denies.

‘Young Guard’

After seven days of intrigue and frustrating disputes over how to revive its faltering authority, the secular Palestinian movement sought to inject some new blood in its leadership. Fifteen out of the eighteen seats open for election on the movement's Central Committee went to new members.
Out of 10 “old guard” members seeking re-election, less than half succeeded.

The congress elected a group of younger leaders to its top council amid efforts to shed its reputation for corruption and cronyism.

“What this younger guard said they want is simply more accountability, more transparency, less corruption, less nepotism; all the things that Palestinians say characterises the old Fatah”, says Iris Makler, GRN correspondent for FRANCE 24 in Jerusalem.

Delegates also elected 48-year-old Mohammed Dahlan, the former head of the Fatah-controlled Preventive Security service that cracked down on Hamas in the Gaza Strip throughout the 1990s, to the Central Committee.

A new beginning?

Fatah has long ruled undisputed over Palestinian politics, but allegations of widespread corruption during Arafat’s 40 years in office, combined with the party’s failure to stop Jewish settlement expansion and the collapse of peace negotiations, have tarnished the movement’s reputation.

In 2006 Fatah lost an election to Islamist party Hamas. The latter ultimately seized control of the Gaza Strip by force, sealing a split within the Palestinian independence movement.

Delegates also re-elected Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to Fatah’s leadership, though the 74-year-old leader stood unopposed. In a speech delivered at the start of the congress, Abbas said the party needed to show disillusioned voters a new beginning.

Date created : 2009-08-11