Fatah to resume poll primaries

The ruling Palestinian Fatah faction has decided to resume its primaries to select candidates for January parliamentary polls which had been halted amid violence and fraud.

    Shaath: The primaries will continue in all areas

    "The central committee has decided to continue with the primaries in all areas where they have so far not taken place and as quickly as possible," deputy prime minister Nabil Shaath said on Wednesday.

    Fatah's main governing body, chaired by Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas, had been meeting to decide what to do about the primaries - initially scheduled to take place in Gaza and the West Bank last Friday.

    The vote was later delayed in most areas and then aborted following outbreaks of violence and serious violations of voting procedure.

    The head of the Fatah commission charged with supervising the ballots, Ahmed al-Diq, said on Tuesday that voting in 10 West Bank constituencies where it had yet to take place had been halted as a result of fraud.

    But several Fatah officials appealed for the primaries to plough on and voting went ahead on Tuesday in Israeli-annexed and occupied east Jerusalem despite extremely low turnout.

    West Bank towns

    More than 300,000 Fatah members are eligible to choose the 132 candidates who will represent the party in the first Palestinian legislative election in a decade, only the second ever such parliamentary vote.

    Fatah members will choose the
    132 party candidates   

    One top Fatah official, Azzam al-Ahmed, said preparations were underway to hold primaries in the West Bank towns of Hebron, Tulkarem and Salfit on Friday.

    Before Wednesday's central committee meeting, Abbas said that whatever the decision, Fatah would submit its list of candidates on schedule so that the 25 January vote could go ahead as planned.

    His party, which has dominated parliament and the cabinet for a decade, faces a fierce challenge from the powerful Islamist movement Hamas in the election, when the group contests its first legislative ballot.

    Hamas

    A spokesman for Hamas had said that Fatah's decision to suspend the primaries would undermine confidence in the Palestinian democratic process.

    The registration of candidates is due to begin on 3 December and close on 14 December, while the actual election campaign will start on 3 January.

    The Palestinian Legislative Council passed a new law in June increasing the number of MPs from 88 to 132, stipulating that half be elected under a system of proportional representation and half by traditional constituencies.

    Journalist held

    In a separate development, Israeli soldiers on Wednesday arrested a Palestinian journalist who works for Aljazeera's Arabic website as well as several local and international media organisations.

    Rajoub's family sources told Aljazeera.net that crack Israeli soldiers and Shin Bet (Israel's domestic intelligence service) officers stormed Rajoub's home in the southern West Bank town of Dura shortly before dawn.

    Rajoub's arrest was unrelated to
    his journalistic work, Israel says

    The soldiers reportedly searched his home thoroughly and confiscated his personal computer, telephone book and other personal papers.

    Rajoub, 28, is a cousin of Palestinian Authority official Jibril Rajoub.

    Rajoub graduated from Qatar university a few years ago and had never been arrested before.

    An Israeli army spokesman, Avi-Chai Adruaie, told Aljazeera.net's correspondent in the West Bank, Khalid Amayreh, that Rajoub was arrested for reasons unrelated to his journalistic profession.

    "All I can tell you that he was arrested for security reasons, because he possessed information the army needs."

    Israel is currently holding a number of Palestinian journalists at the Kitziot detention camp in southern Israel

    .

    SOURCE: AFP


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