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.