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Friday, November 6, 2009     GET REAL

Power struggle brewing over Abbas succession

RAMALLAH — A power struggle has emerged over a successor to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.   

Palestinian sources said at least four current or former senior PA officials were preparing for the prospect of running for chairman in elections scheduled for January 2010, Middle East Newsline reported. They said two of the potential candidates were former PA security chiefs.

"There are a number of people getting ready for the prospect that Abbas will either resign or won't run for elections," a Palestinian source said.

"There are also those who are prepared to oppose Abbas should he decide to run for another term."

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On Nov. 5, Abbas said he would not run in elections scheduled for January 2010. The PA chairman said he would not change his mind.

"I told the members of the PLO Executive and Fateh Central Committees that I am not willing to run for the next presidential elections," Abbas said in a televised address. This decision is not a sort of bargaining, maneuvering or bidding."

The sources identified four of the most likely candidates preparing to succeed Abbas. They were Prime Minister Salam Fayad, jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti and former PA security chiefs Mohammed Dahlan and Jibril Rajoub.

At this point, most of the Fatah leadership believes Abbas would abandon plans to hold elections in January 2010. The sources said the PA chairman could cite Hamas's refusal to participate in elections or allow balloting to take place in the Gaza Strip.

But the sources said Abbas was being pressured to hold elections regardless of Hamas restrictions. They said the PA chairman was torn between remaining in his position and the fear that he would be forced out of office by Fatah's Young Guard.

"Abbas is determined not to leave quietly, but he is also seen as increasingly vulnerable and no longer having the support of the Arabs and the West," the source said.

At this point, Dahlan was said to have aligned himself with Fayad in any bid to take over the PA leadership. The sources said the United States and some members of the European Union support such a succession scenario.

Barghouti has also been preparing to run for PA chairman. The sources said Barghouti would probably not announce his candidacy unless Abbas decides to resign.

"Barghouti does not want to be seen as dividing Fatah, and would rather not run than run and lose," another Palestinian source said.

Rajoub, a new member of the Fatah Central Committee, has also been examining a race to replace Abbas. The sources said Rajoub, regarded as the No. 2 figure in the Fatah leadership, overcame odds to become a member of the Fatah leadership and establish a growing popularity among young Palestinians.

"Rajoub will probably align himself with one of the frontrunners," the source said.

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