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PALESTINE - Jun 5 - Delay In Election Gives Abbas Some Breathing Space.

The Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, moves to shore-up support for reform in his governing Fatah party after a decision to postpone parliamentary elections draws condemnation from its Islamist rival, Hamas. Officially the postponement of the polls, which had been due in July, is to allow time for changes to the electoral laws. Abbas told Palestinian TV it was "necessary to enable ourselves to finalise the legal measures and [to hold] consultations between factions". But a PA official said the delay also gave Fatah a chance to address internal disagreements and the mounting electoral challenge posed by Hamas. Palestinian officials said the vote - the first for the Palestinian parliament since 1996 - could be delayed by as much as six months. Hamas officials denounced the postponement, announced on Jun 5, as a "violation" of Egyptian-brokered agreements between Fatah and rival factions, which helped Abbas secure a ceasefire with Israel earlier this year. But they stopped short of pulling out from the truce. In a meeting with more than 100 top Fatah members on Jun 5, Abbas discussed reforming selection procedures for candidates and sought a parallel delay to the party's convention in August. As part of efforts to consolidate a truce with Israel, Abbas has attempted to draw Hamas and other militant factions into the political process and away from violence. He is due to meet them for talks on the election delay in the Gaza Strip on Jun 6. "What we are seeing is a battle between the old guard and new guard", the official said. "The Fatah election procedures date back 40 years and exclude younger candidates. The president now realises if he sticks with the old rules he'll be saddled with the old guard". Hamas is regarded in the US and Israel as a terrorist organisation for the role its military wing has played in suicide bombings. It is running parliamentary candidates for the first time. Political analysts put its growing support among Palestinians down to widespread disaffection with Fatah, a party driven by factionalism.
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Publication:APS Diplomat Recorder
Geographic Code:70MID
Date:Jun 11, 2005
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