Palestinian Elections: In Challenge to Abbas, Jailed Leader Barghouti to Announce Independent Run

Marwan Barghouti, who is serving five life sentences in Israel for involvement in second intifada attacks, will submit a list for Palestinian parliamentary elections, in a possible prelude to a presidential run

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A poster of Marwan Barghouti in an office in Ramallah, in March.
A poster of Marwan Barghouti in an office in Ramallah, in March.Credit: ABBAS MOMANI - AFP

Prominent Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti, who is jailed in Israel, is set to submit an independent list for the parliamentary election, in a major shake-up to the Palestinian political map in the forthcoming May election.

Barghouti's election run, which sources close to him will be made official as soon as Tuesday, could jeopardize President Mahmoud Abbas' standing. The sources added that this independent list could be a prelude to a presidential bid as well. 

Sources in Fatah, Abbas' party that Barghouti is a member of its central committee, said the new list will include more Fatah activists who wish to break away from the party's line, as well as other independent candidates. 

The deadline to submit lists to the Palestinian Central Elections Committee is Wednesday. 

Senior Fatah officials told Haaretz that they "won't be surprised" if Barghouti drops his independent run before the deadline, adding that the party could offer him some form of representation in its list.

Marwan Barghouti appears at a Jerusalem court, in 2012.Credit: Bernat Armangue/AP

Barghouti is currently serving five life sentences and another 40 years in prison for his involvement in murders and terror attacks in the second intifada in Israel.

He was previously known as the commander of the Tanzim, a militant faction of Fatah. After his arrest in 2002, during Israel's Operation Defenseive Shield, he was prosecuted, acquitted from 32 charges but was convicted of the murder of four people.

His former political home, Fatah, has sought to persuade Barghouti not to run, while rival factions have attempted to lure the popular prisoner onto their slate.

Hussein al-Sheikh, the Palestinian minister who acts as a liasion with Israel, met with Barghouti in February, in a move that was unusually approved by the Israeli Prison Services.

President Mahmoud Abbas during a meeting in Ramallah, last year.Credit: Mohamad Torokman/Reuters

Nasser Al-Qudwa, who was expelled from Fatah this month, also called on Barghouti to head an alternative list in the May poll. It is not yet clear whether Barghouti’s announcement refers to Al-Qudwa’s list, or a separate slate.

President Abbas announced earlier this year that Palestinians will head to the polls for the first elections in more than a decade. After May's parliamentary elections, presidential elections are set for July.

Though Parliament members and presidents are voted in for four-year terms, this year's vote would be the first parliamentary elections in 14 years and first presidential ones in 15.

The Palestinian Central Elections Committee has announced that 25 rosters for the election have been submitted so far. 

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