A man jailed for life in Israel accused of organising the killing of Jews has been elected to a senior position in the Fatah faction of Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas. Marwan Barghouthi, who denies the charges, won a seat on the secular party’s Central Committee.
It was the first such vote held on Palestinian soil. And there were some surprises. In fact, only four out of 10 old guard Fatah members on the executive kept their seats – and about a dozen other places were filled with faces new to the Central Committee. “This election marks a turning point between past and future. A future that will deal with all political and structural questions within Fatah, and everything regarding the future of the Palestine Liberation Organisation and inter-Palestinian relations,” said former senior security official Mohammed Dahlan, sitting for the first time. President Abbas had said Fatah needed to show voters it has thrown off its reputation for corruption and jobs-for-the-boys. He was unanimously re-affirmed as leader in a show of hands vote that made it impossible to tell if there were any opponents to his leadership. But Abbas has some way to go before he can celebrate. The Palestinian independence movement is split – with rivals Hamas in control in Gaza – and Fatah struggling to reverse a slide in popularity.