Reacting immediately, in an attempt to defuse the crisis, the official Fatah party on Thursday named Marwan Barghuti, the jailed rebel leader, as its head in place of Ahmed Qorei, the prime minister, who had been expected to lead the slate in January's parliamentary elections.

 

Nasser al-Qidwa, the foreign minister, said in Ram Allah: "Marwan Barghuti is at the top of the Fatah list." 

 

Qorei, who was chosen to head the official list by the party's central committee late on Tuesday, was relegated to number four on the actual list.

  
Earlier on Wednesday, Fadwa, the wife of Barghuti, entered the election headquarters in Ramallah to present the list, signalling that Barghuti was leaving Fatah.

 

Qadoura Fares, a leader of the young activists, said they had presented their own list of candidates for the election.

Saeb Nimr, Barghuti's campaign manager, said: "We have registered an independent party under the name The Future, headed by Marwan Barghuti."

Dahlan, number two

Mohammed Dahlan, the powerful civil affairs minister, was number two on the list, which also includes Jibril Rajoub,  security adviser to Mahmoud Abbas, the president, Fatah officials said.

Dahlan said: "This is a new dawn. We will remain loyal to this movement and Fatah will come out victorious."

The split is a bitter blow for
President Abbas

Among others on the list were Fares, an MP; Samir Mashharawi, a senior Fatah official; and Sufiyan Abu Zayid, minister for prisoner affairs.

All of them represent the younger generation within the ruling Fatah party.

Fadwa Barghuti, who was accompanied by Dahlan as she entered the office, is also a candidate.
  
Barghuti, serving five life terms in an Israeli prison, has won West Bank primary elections conducted by Fatah, but veteran Fatah leaders, headed by President Mahmoud Abbas, tried to insert old-guard figures in the list ahead of the younger leaders, setting off the rebellion.

Old guard

The split is a bitter blow for Abbas and his Fatah old guard.

Half an hour before the deadline, veteran Fatah officials came to present their list of candidates, in effect finalising the split, but they said efforts were still under way to unify the party.

"I am coming to register Fatah's list. We hope that there will be only one list"

Nasser al-Qidwa,
Foreign Minister,
Palestinian Authority

They called for rebels in the dominant Fatah faction to close ranks.

Al-Qidwa, arriving at a Central Elections Committee office shortly after a breakaway list was filed, said: "I am coming to register Fatah's list. We hope that there will be only one list."

Fatah, the party of Yasser Arafat, the late leader, has ruled Palestinian politics for four decades.

The old guard returned from exile with Arafat in the mid-1990s, while many of the young activists were in the West Bank and Gaza through the years, struggling against Israeli occupation.

Hamas   

Abbas was elected head of the Palestinian Authority in January, succeeding Arafat, and did not plan to run for the parliament.

Earlier, Hamas formally registered for its first parliamentary election.

Hamas formally submitted its list
for its first participation  

Hamas boycotted the last elections but its strong showing in recent municipal elections has persuaded it to field candidates this time.
  
A new round of local elections on Thursday will provide another test of its strength after the publication of a host of polls which have given Fatah around 50%, against about 30% for Hamas.
  
A number of prominent independents are also seeking election in what will become a 132-seat chamber, including Hanan Ashrawi, the former peace negotiator with Israel.

The CEC, which halted its operations on Tuesday in protest at a number of attacks on its offices, agreed to reopen its doors hours before the deadline.
  
The election on 25 January will be only the second parliamentary ballot since the establishment of the Palestinian Authority a decade ago and will be the first time that Fatah's dominance has met a serious challenge.