Nabil Amr
Palestinian writer and politician

Who Will Be the Next President? And How?

One man announced that he seeks the Palestinian presidency whether Abbas is around or not, the leader captive, Marwan Barghouti.

Those whose names are being circulated without their approval, on the other hand, are many. They are all competing in what aficionados of the press like to call "the strugglers over the caliphate," and all of them are members of Fatah.

The assumption that the President must be from Fatah, more specifically, from its central committee, was logical and even inevitable when Fatah had been in better straits. As for today, after those who had been expelled or had walked away became more numerous than those who remained, things have changed drastically. Two divergences that compel those interested to reflect and draw lessons from them have emerged.

The first is somewhat old. When Fatah was united, before any of its members had openly defected, it lost the legislative elections to Hamas by a wide margin in 2006. This outcome was not the result of Hamas enjoying greater popularity in the Palestinian street but of Fatah's internal struggles, which left the party winning many votes without managing to turn them into seats.

As for the second, it is an incident that took place a year ago, when the President of the PA, who also leads Fatah, took the decision to hold legislative, presidential and national elections within a tight time frame that had been unanimously agreed upon by the various Palestinian factions.

Fatah entered the phase of preparing for these elections with three rival lists led by three different members of the central committee. Two of them had been expelled. As for the third, official Fatah could not expel him due to ethical, moral and public opinion considerations. However, these considerations left it losing a large segment of Fatah's base and the Palestinian people, whom opinion polls show favor Barghouti above anyone else.

The elections were postponed, and those who do not see this postponement as another word for cancellation are in denial, those who cannot see that fear of the results is the direct reason for the cancellation are ignorant. As for the official reason, Jerusalem, are the Palestinians still arguing about whether it is the real reason or is it an excuse?!

The political class, both geographical and ideological, does not favor elections even if it constantly pays them lip service. Everything that has happened since they were postponed confirms that the people have gone to alternatives, whether in terms of reformulating the divisions of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, as the pyramid has become inverted. The largest and most legitimate body has assigned the smallest body to take on its responsibilities. Since then, and perhaps indefinitely, the PA has been hiding behind the central committee, turning it into a substitute for everything.

The Palestinian political system that emerged through the Oslo Accords was accompanied by promises of a final settlement with Israel. It was hoped that with good intentions, this political system would complement the PLO's system established for exile and revolution, but what came to be is a schizophrenic political system in its personality, structure and tasks. It is no longer a question of separating the old from the new. Rather it developed in isolation, with no efficiency. The new state of affairs that had been built on elections was destroyed. In destroying it, two political movements emerged on the ground; one calls itself and is being dealt with as a resistance group, and the other wraps itself in legitimacy, which it had previously enjoyed per the old standards and international arrangements with it. This second movement is still trying to go through the needle that is a fair solution through the Oslo accords, which is getting narrower and closed every day.

In this case, what are the limits of the President's authority, whether he is from Fatah, Hamas, or parachutes down with an umbrella from anywhere else? How would Israel deal with this President who is named by consensus, election, or any other means? Before any Palestinian thinks about the presidency, he must first contemplate its limits and the effectiveness of his presidency and answer this question: Do the Palestinian people, the state they are in, need the head of an authority or a state whose land has dissolved and vanished, or does it need leadership and a system that unites the people, homeland, program, goal, management, resources, and everything that matters for the people and nation?

President Abbas very recently warned that the Palestinian people's patience has limits, admitting that nothing is on the horizon and nothing above the very low bar that has been imposed can be achieved. President Abbas is too old to transform from PA president to revolutionary leader… so who will succeed him??

The answer depends on how he gets there. The state of PLO, Fatah, the Palestinian Authority, and Palestinian politics more generally makes a consensus around a president impossible. Thus, there is no alternative to a single path for a president and legitimacy, the ballot box. Those concerned with improving the Palestinians' situation and avoiding sudden outbursts of violence should help with that.