RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday rejected a complaint by former prime minister Ahmed Qurie that he had lost his seat on the executive of Fatah in an “unsound” party election.
Qurie, who was a peace negotiator with Israel for years, leveled the charge a day after Fatah announced final results of voting for its Central Committee members at the first congress in 20 years of the dominant Palestinian movement.
“Our people and the world followed Fatah as it undertook an election process which was democratic and transparent,” Abbas told a news conference.
“As for those who were unlucky in this election, that’s democracy. But they will continue to have a role in the party.”
Qurie, 72-year-old former chief negotiator with Israel, earlier told Reuters the Fatah congress election “from the outset ... did not meet the minimum principles of transparency.”
Better known as Abu Ala, he was one of 10 veteran Central Committee members who sought re-election. He was a central committee member for years and worked on organizing the long awaited sixth congress, which he chaired at its opening in Bethlehem on August 4.
Only four veterans made it back into the 22-seat executive body, which was supposed to have 18 elected and four appointed members.
Critics said Fatah clearly bent its own rules to ensure that another veteran, Abbas aide Tayyeb Abdel-Rahim, got a seat on the executive.
He lost by two votes but after a recount Fatah said he ranked equal with the 18th member on the winners’ list and would duly take his place, while the number of appointed members would be reduced by one to three.
Abbas said there was “no possibility of Fatah being split, especially not because of Abu Ala. He wouldn’t even think of doing that.”
Qurie earlier said: “The situation is not easy ... There is a great degree of grumbling in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. But I do not raise questions about those who won.”
Among irregularities he noted were 10 ballot boxes for the Central Committee instead of one; a 24-hour delay in announcing the result; many ballots in the same handwriting; armed security men present while the count was going on.
Qurie said he expected challenges to the results of voting for the parliament of the secular party, the Revolutionary Council, that were due to be announced on Friday.
“There will be no trust in the results,” he said.
Senior Fatah members believe the election of members from the younger generation will put the party in a better position to seek a crucial reconciliation with its rival, the Islamist group Hamas which controls the Gaza Strip, restoring some unity to the divided Palestinian nationalist cause.
Reinvigoration of Fatah, battered at parliamentary polls by Hamas in 2006 because of perceived corruption, cronyism and complacency, would also strengthen Abbas’s hand in talks with Israel as U.S. President Barack Obama readies a new peace plan.
Writing by Mohammed Assadi; editing by Douglas Hamilton and Tim Pearce