Palestinians to elect new president on January 9

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Mahmoud Abbas

RAMALLAH — Acting president Rawhi Fattuh has announced today that Palestinian elections will be held on January 9. Futtuh, head of the Palestinian parliament, was sworn in hours after the death of Yasser Arafat on Thursday, and Palestinian Basic Law dictates that he may only serve up to two months before elections are held.

New leadership could prove to be the key to revitalizing the peace process in the Middle East, as both Israel and the United States had refused to work with Arafat.

The Haaretz had initially reported that former prime minister Mahmoud Abbas was selected by the Fatah central committee as their candidate for president, but Abbas has denied this, saying, "the matter is still being discussed." There have also been conflicting reports on whether or not jailed Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti will run.

Barghouti is currently serving five life sentences in Israel for attacks against Israelis. Nonetheless, he remains a popular figure among Palestinians for his role in the Palestinian uprising, and could potentially win the election if he decided to run.

A win by Barghouti could put Israel in an awkward spot; however an Israeli official said this week that he would not be freed, and a landslide win by Barghouti would signify to them that the Palestinians were not yet ready for peace.