August 14, 2009 / 1:04 PM / in 8 years

Palestinian Fatah elects new party assembly

BETHLEHEM, West Bank, Aug 14 - (Reuters) - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah faction elected a new party assembly on Friday, in a further move to rejuvenate the movement after overhauling its main executive body this week.

Some 600 candidates competed for 80 open places on the 128-seat Revolutionary Council at Fatah’s first congress in 20 years, which began in Bethlehem on Aug 4.

The Revolutionary Council, which convenes every three months, is charged with implementing resolutions of the congress and monitoring the performance of the Central Committee.

Preliminary results indicated that Fatah’s younger generation in their 40s would win places.

Election officials said they had counted more than 70 percent of the vote and expected to finish the process around midnight, announcing final results on Saturday.

Abbas on Thursday announced a Central Committee lineup that included several younger members and unseated a number of veteran “old guard” contemporaries of the late Yasser Arafat.

Palestinians of the diaspora came to Bethlehem from more than 80 countries for the 44-year-old movement’s first convention on home soil.

Fatah members believe their secular, Western-backed group is now better placed to seek reconciliation with the rival, Islamist group Hamas which controls the Gaza Strip, restoring some unity to the divided Palestinian nationalist cause.

Reinforcement of Fatah, battered in parliamentary polls by Hamas in 2006 because of its perceived corruption, cronyism and complacency, may 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 Samia Nakhoul

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