The Palestinian political faction, Fatah, has named former Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas as its candidate to succeed the late Yasser Arafat in the presidential election scheduled for January 9th. The announcement confirms Abbas as the frontrunner in the ballot, despite his lack of grassroots support. His nomination by Fatah should be confirmed at a meeting of the Revolutionary Council on Thursday.The 69-year-old moderate is favoured by Israel and the United States. On Monday Abbas met the outgoing US secretary of state, in Jericho. Colin Powell, on his first visit to the region for 18 months, reiterated Washington’s support for the forthcoming elections. He also secured an agreement from Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to allow Palestinians greater freedom of movement to ensure all were able to vote.