Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party has expelled one of its senior officials over his attempt to field a separate list of candidates in a parliamentary election.
In a statement on Thursday, Fatah’s Central Committee said it had given Nasser al-Qudwa two days to reverse his decision and drop his breakaway challenge, but that he had failed to comply.
Al-Qudwa, a member of the committee and a nephew of late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, has not yet commented on his dismissal.
Last week, al-Qudwa announced he would form a list to run against Fatah in the May legislative vote.
He called on party member Marwan Barghouti, a popular Palestinian leader serving five life sentences in Israel after a military court convicted him of “terrorism” charges during the 2000-2005 uprising, to head the candidate roster.
Abbas, 85, has ruled the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the Israeli-occupied West Bank by decree for more than a decade, and the last Palestinian election was 15 years ago.
Abbas has decreed presidential and parliamentary elections to be held in the coming months. They would be the first general election since 2006, when Hamas won a landslide victory, in part because of divisions within Fatah.
That set off a series of crises and internal clashes culminating in Hamas’s bloody seizure of power in Gaza the following year.
It is far from certain that the elections will actually be held. Fatah and Hamas have been bitterly divided since the Hamas takeover of Gaza, and several attempts at reconciliation have failed.
Abbas must also contend with rivalries within Fatah that could see other current or former members follow in al-Qudwa’s footsteps and launch their own lists.
That would risk diluting Fatah’s support and paving the way for another victory by Hamas.
Abbas’s popularity has plummeted in recent years as he has failed to advance Palestinian hopes for statehood, or mend ties with Hamas.
There have been no substantive peace negotiations with Israel in more than a decade, and the PA is widely seen as having become increasingly corrupt and autocratic. Abbas, who was elected to a four-year term in 2005, has not named a successor.