Over Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat's objections, the Fatah movement in Gaza is proceeding with elections that began on May 26 and are expected to go on for several more weeks.
According to Fatah sources, so far the vast majority of those elected are identified with the reformists who are demanding greater democracy in the movement, and the old guard is losing. Other sources are saying bluntly that Mohammed Dahlan's camp is winning.
Because of the Dahlan camp's successes, Arafat last weekend ordered a halt to the electoral process. Nonetheless, elections slated for the Rimal area in northern Gaza took place as scheduled on Sunday. Turning out for the vote were 1,060 Fatah members in Rimal. Since May, there have been votes held in five precincts in Gaza: Beit Hanun, with 450 voters; Jabalya City; two Jabalya refugee camp neighborhoods, with 950 voters in one district; and Beit Lahia, with 650 voters. According to the organizers, more than 95 percent of the eligible voters took part in the elections.
Fatah is organized into seven districts in Gaza, and each has five voting precincts, except for Khan Yunis, which has four. Altogether, there are 34 voting precincts in the Strip. The current process is electing 38 representatives from each district, and another 12 are appointed. Those elected from the precincts elect 11 district representatives, and in each district, the local leadership appoints another four representatives, so that each district has 15 representatives, and the 105 elected representatives from the seven districts are supposed to join West Bank and Diaspora representatives in electing the new revolutionary council, which in turn elects the new central committee for the movement.
Arafat ordered a halt to the elections indirectly, through the head of the General Security forces in Gaza, Abed Razik al Majada, who ordered the Gaza Fatah secretary Ahmed Hilis to cancel the elections and remove from the lists all the security forces personnel running for election, who are considered the most likely victors. Majada made clear he was acting on Arafat's orders.
The large turnout encouraged organizers to ignore Arafat's orders. A senior Fatah source told Haaretz that "we want to encourage the Fatah in Gaza, the West Bank and Diaspora to follow our lead and hold internal elections, so we can elect a new Fatah central committee. The last time a central committee was elected was 16 years ago."
All the current central committee members, except one, are "Tunis-Fatah," meaning they came to the territories with the arrival of the PA after the Oslo accords in 1993. Nobody directly challenged Arafat's leadership during the election campaigns.
One area where elections might be postponed is in the Sejea area, since it is the home base of Hilis, who is identified with Arafat.
But one of the election organizers told Haaretz that he and his colleagues will do everything to make the elections succeed and spread throughout all of Gaza.
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