Abbas Vows to End Chaos as PLC Vote Looms

The unrest instigated by armed Fatah members over the past few days and the growing bitterness in the movement over the united list for the Palestinian Authority parliamentary elections are further weakening support for the movement and reducing the chances that the elections will be held as scheduled, Fatah activists said over the weekend.

Fatah appears to be doing its best to dissuade people from voting for it, as well as to signal that the elections will not take place on January 25, because of the possibility that it will suffer a defeat. That is the conclusion that can be drawn from the behavior of Fatah members in recent days, whether they are political activists for the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades or belong to rival factions.

Armed members of various Fatah factions have been responsible in recent days for a series of abductions, assaults and threats, including the kidnapping of the three British citizens who were released yesterday. Consequently, the Palestinian public sees Fatah as responsible for undermining the sense of internal security, which is already shaky as a result of the continued Israeli military operation in the Gaza Strip. The general impression is that Fatah, as the ruling party, is either incapable or unwilling to impose order and restrain its armed men.

PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas vowed last night to end the chaos.

"It is time to impose the authority of law and order," Abbas said in a New Year's message broadcast on Palestinian television. "These events ... harm our international credibility and strengthen Israel's pretext to undermine peace and stop withdrawals."

"The national authority regards chaos, anarchy, and challenges to the authority of law and order as dangers threatening the entire national project," he reiterated.

In an announcement yesterday in the newspaper Al-Ayyam, leading Fatah candidate Marwan Barghouti called on the Palestinian public to put its faith in the movement, saying it would "not hesitate to apologize for our mistakes" - indicating fear of an election defeat.

Meanwhile, criticism grew over the weekend regarding the makeup of Fatah's national slate of candidates. Fatah activists from several regions announced their intention to abstain from voting or to vote for other lists.

Fatah's 19 candidates from East Jerusalem announced on Friday they would not be running because of Israel's intention to bar free elections in the city. Fatah sources ventured that the announcement - one day before the legal deadline for removing candidates from the list - was intended to prepare the ground for cancelling the elections or postponing them for national reasons.