The Palestinian Prisoner-Candidates
Le Monde's Jerusalem Correspondent, Gilles Paris, reports on the prisoner-candidates for tomorrow's elections in Palestine. The most famous, Fatah's Marwan Barghouti, is likely being be manipulated by Abbas and Olmert to ensure that victory is wrested from the vigorous and popular Hamas and into the arms of the moth-eaten Fatah.
This could be a good thing if it awakens Israel to the idea of releasing Barghouti to lead Palestine but I'm not holding my breath.
Le Monde |23 January 2006)
RAMALLAH (THE WEST BANK) Special Correspondent Gilles Paris
His face already on every Fatah election poster, on Sunday 22 December Marwan Barghouti invited himself to take part in the Palestinian legislative elections. On the eve of the vote, this popular Palestinian prisoner and leader of the Fatah list was permitted to grant a long interview to al-Jazeera from his Israeli jail cell, where he is serving several life sentences for his participation in the Second Intifada.
At party headquarters in Ramallah, the news lifted the morale of the troops which, according to opinion polls, had been vacillating. Marwan is the slogan and the program of Fatah, says his friend Kadoora Farès, exhausted by his own campaign to represent the district of Ramallah and who has just finished an interview with al-Arabiya, the competitor of al-Jazeera. Fatah cannot win without him, but he can made Fatah win, he adds.
Like Marwan Barghouti, whose speeches, written especially for the campaign, are blared by loudspeakers mounted on vans, Farès is among twenty candidate-prisoners on the national “lists” from which 132 MPs will be elected.
The leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Ahmed Saadat, held in a Palestinian prison under international control following his implication in the assassination of an Israeli minister in revenge for elimination of his predecessor, is also on the list. He has even been permitted to leave his cell to participate in press conferences.
The Vice Minister in charge of prisoners, Ziyad Abu Ein, who is domiciled where Marwan Barghouti was arrested by the Israeli Army in 2002, is not surprised by the large number of prisoner-candidates. It’s all about the respect people have for them. People never stop talking about how important this matter is for the Palestinians; these candidates for office prove it.
BITTERNESS EXPRESSED BY HAMAS
Moreover, the release of the prisoners is a demand shared by all the parties in the race. The rivalry between Fatah and the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) does not stop at the prison gates. Would most of the prisoners be members of Hamas? Absolutely not, retorts the Fatah Vice-Minister, who gives me his own estimates: 4,800 are Fatah, 800 are members of other PLO factions and 3,000 are Islamists.
At Hamas, the entry into the race of Marwan Barghouti provokes bitterness. I have a great deal of respect for Marwan. I was arrested along with him, says Abdallah Al-Bacri from the Hamas headquarters at al-Bireh, but the prison rules for him must surely be the same as for Hamas members. We encounter a great deal of difficulty in contacting our people. There is obviously a convergence of interests between Fatah and Israel: to ensure a loss by Hamas, says Abu Assaad, the Hamas campaign chairman for Ramallah. Sheikh Hassan Yussuf is running for office in the district of Ramallah among 13 other Islamist prisoners. Three of the prisoner-candidates there are Hamas members. If they are elected, they can designate a proxy to serve in the legislature for them from among the party’s other candidates in the race.