Yasser Arafat has been remembered in a minute’s silence at a special session of the Palestinian Legislative Council called in his honour. After paying their respects, members turned to the issue of who will succeed the late President. So far, former Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas has been tipped as the frontrunner in elections scheduled for next January. His position was strengthened on Monday after the Fatah faction announced they were officially backing him.
Abbas, still lacking grassroots support, has now pledged to follow Arafat’s footsteps if elected. In particular, he vowed to hold firm on Arafat’s promise to bring back Palestinian refugees. He said he would not rest until the right of return was achieved and the “tragedy of diaspora” was ended. While Abbas’s moderate stance appeals to Washington and Israel, it is unclear whether the 69-year-old can win over those Palestinians who have flocked to radical Islamic groups since the latest uprising began four years ago.