Abbas Tightens Grip on Power as Conference Ends

RAMALLAH (AP) -
PalestinianAuthority President Mahmud Abbas casts his vote at the Fatah conference in Ramallah. (Ahmad Gharabli/Pool photo via AP)
PalestinianAuthority President Mahmud Abbas casts his vote at the Fatah conference in Ramallah. (Ahmad Gharabli/Pool photo via AP)

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas tightened his hold on the governing Fatah party and shut out a key rival, according to results Sunday of leadership elections.

The election comes as senior Fatah members are battling behind the scenes to succeed Abbas one day. The 81-year-old leader has given no sign that he plans to retire from the presidency or his top jobs in Fatah and the Palestine Liberation Organization.

More than 1,300 Fatah delegates confirmed Abbas’ continued Fatah leadership role by acclamation and elected 18 members of the movement’s top decision-making Central Committee.

Runner-ups in the struggle for power were Marwan Barghouti, a Palestinian terrorist serving multiple life sentences in Israel, and Jibril Rajoub, a former security chief. Both are seen as potential Abbas successors, and their strong showing could improve their eventual succession bids.

The elections took place during a Fatah conference that was also meant to block the return of Mohammed Dahlan, a former Abbas aide who fell out with his boss several years ago and went into exile.

Several Arab countries, including the United Arab Emirates, have been pressing Abbas to allow Dahlan, a millionaire businessman, to reclaim a leadership position. In arranging the conference, Abbas effectively blocked Dahlan’s return to the top ranks of Fatah.