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Bridging The Gap
Palestinians face uncertainties over Abbas succession
  Thursday 24 May, 2018
Palestinians face uncertainties over Abbas succession

Wearing an elegant dressing gown, the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, is shown walking unaided along the corridor of Ramallah's best private hospital.

A family photograph has him sitting upright in bed casually studying a newspaper.

A hospital official said the 83-year-old leader - who had surgery on his ear last week - now had inflammation in his lung but was "responding to the treatment quickly and recovering".

The message was clearly meant to quell swirling rumours of the president's imminent demise.

However, his latest medical scares are a reminder of how Palestinian politics remains in a critical condition.

A deep schism persists between the president's Fatah faction and its rival, Hamas. It is a split which has induced a state of paralysis.

Hamas won a parliamentary poll in 2006, a year after Mr Abbas became president.

In 2007, it reinforced its power in Gaza, ousting forces from the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority (PA), after days of clashes. The PA was left to run parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

No presidential or legislative vote has been organised since, and President Abbas is now in the 13th year of a four-year term.

Last year, local elections took place only in the West Bank and were boycotted by Hamas.
Factional rift

Increasingly, there are open discussions among ordinary Palestinians as well as Israeli officials and foreign diplomats about who could be the next leader.

It is expected that Hamas will nominate Ismail Haniyeh, head of the Islamist movement.

A Hamas spokesman, Hazem Qassem, insists that any future presidential contest "must be an affair for all Palestinians, not an internal Fatah issue".

However, after the latest attempts at a Hamas-Fatah reconciliation failed, his group could well be sidelined.

According to Palestinian Basic Law, if the president dies or is incapacitated, the parliamentary speaker should fill in while elections are organised.

As the current speaker is Aziz Dweik of Hamas, many Fatah officials have argued this article no longer applies. They point out parliament has not met in over a decade because of Israeli restrictions on Palestinian movement and due to the Palestinians' political split.

Last year, Mahmoud al-Aloul, a former governor of Nablus, was appointed as the first-ever vice-chairman of Fatah.

Figures in his party have since said that if Mr Abbas was unable to carry out his duties, he would take over for three months as acting president until elections could be held.

That would leave the Fatah Central Committee - the party's top decision-making body - to make the decisions about who would ultimately become president.

Source: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-37754987

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