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Fatah re-elects Mahmoud Abbas

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By Catherine Hardy
Fatah re-elects Mahmoud Abbas

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has opened the first congress of his Fatah party for seven years.

An estimated 1,300 delegates gathered to elect new leaders and discuss longer-term policy.

“You today, in these historic times, are living the writing of modern history,” Abbas said as he opened the meeting.

He praised Fatah’s founders and the “martyrs who died along the path towards freedom and independence”.

After his short opening address, Abbas was nominated to be re-elected as head of Fatah and approved by acclamation.

A challenging time

The meeting comes at a challenging time for Abbas, in the wake of Donald Trump’s election in the United States.

Some say this could be seen as giving a boost to Israel’s settlement-building on occupied land the Palestinians seek for their own state.

Repeated delays

The congress was supposed to be held two years ago, but political divisions, both within the party and between Fatah and the rival Islamist Hamas movement, led to repeated delays before Abbas fixed the date only a couple of months ago.

The meeting is scheduled to last five days.

It will elect new faces to Fatah’s 21-member central committee, the party’s top decision-making body.

It will also choose a new 80-person revolutionary council, a quasi-parliament.

Time for fresh elections?

Abbas has been in power for 11 years.

He was elected to power in 2005 and the last parliamentary vote was in 2006.

Some think it is time for him to nominate a successor and call new elections.

Around a third of the members of the central committee are expected to change as a result of the congress.

Abbas will still be chairman of Fatah and the Palestinian umbrella movement, the Palestine Liberation Organisation.