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Easy transition or power struggle after death of Arafat?

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Easy transition or power struggle after death of Arafat?


Exactly who will step into Arafat’s shoes has become the subject of increasing intrigue. Under the Palestinian constitution, officials have 60 days to organise the replacement of a leader who dies in office. However, on this occasion, negotiations are already underway, with a steady flow of vehicles to Arafat’s headquarters in Ramallah. Two obvious names come to mind on the question of a successor: the current Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurie and the PLO’s number two Mahmoud Abbas. The pair already hold temporary power, but neither has been nominated as are placement by Arafat himself.

Some reports say Arafat’s preferred choice is a relative unknown: Farouk Kaddoumi, the PLO’s political chief. While he is known for his anti-American stance and opposition to the Oslo peace accord with Israel, it is considered that he lacks strong leadership skills. While it remains to be seen if there will be a bitter power struggle, pictures of 13 Palestinian factions sitting down together and talking about a united position impressed many in the West. Mohamed Al-Hindi, an Islamic jihad leader, said: “We discussed how to appear as a Palestinian people in front of the world. We agreed that we must appear as a united people.” “We shall do our best to strengthen this and ask all others to do so,” said Hamas leader Samir Abu Zuhri. “We also stress that this critical stage does not allow any party or any faction to take responsibility on its shoulders alone.” It seems unlikely Hamas would put forward a candidate for the leadership, even though a recent opinion poll among Palestinians showed that senior Hamas figures would do well in the event of an election being held. Also popular among the people in Gaza is the territory’s ambitious former security chief Mohammed Dahlan. A man who fell out with Arafat, he has been accused of being too close to the Americans, partly because of his support for reform of the Palestinian Authority. He is also said to be less popular in the West Bank. Dahlan was accused of encouraging a series of kidnappings, shootings and anti-Arafat demonstrations that rocked the Palestinian authority over the summer. Having spoken out against corruption, and the need for change at the top, he is favoured by some in the West. But he knows that is not enough to win backing in the complex world of Palestinian politics.
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