by Khaled Abu Toameh
Backed by the
Palestinians went to the polls three times in the past fives years to vote - - Twice they voted for Hamas.
Hamas candidates scored major victories in the municipal and parliamentary elections.
Hamas boycotted the presidential election that was held in January 2005, and which brought Mahmoud Abbas to power. Had Hamas participated in the presidential election, some Palestinians argue that its chances of winning that vote too would have been good.
Prior to the January 2006 parliamentary election, the
Such was the degree of contempt for Fatah and its representatives that even Christians and secular Palestinians cast their ballots for the radical Islamic movement.
Fatah itself was even so aware of its poor performance and blunders that it dispatched some of its representatives to the
Today Fatah is not in a better situation and its chances of winning in the planned elections next year do not appear to be high.
Fatah's dwindling popularity is mainly attributed to the faction's failure to draw conclusions from its defeat to Hamas in the 2006 election - Fatah's failure to reform itself and get rid of icons of financial corruption and thugs who continue to call the shots in the faction.
The feeling among many Palestinians is that Fatah, the largest faction of the PLO, is continuing to march backward ever since it lost one of its founders and symbols, Yasser Arafat.
In the past few weeks, Fatah's credibility suffered one blow after another.
First, Fatah's Sixth General Assembly, which was held in
Second, Fatah's open affiliation and cooperation with
Third, the recent summit in
Fourth, Abbas's decision to withdraw a proposal to the UN Human Rights Council regarding the report of Justice Richard Goldstone on the
Meanwhile, Hamas appears to be increasing its power. A prisoner-exchange agreement with
Despite its failure to improve the living conditions of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and its responsibility for the ongoing suffering there, Hamas is still admired by many because of its continued defiance and refusal to bow to US, Israeli and Arab pressure.
Barring last-minute obstacles, Hamas and Fatah are expected to sign a "reconciliation" accord on October 22 in the Egyptian capital of
The Egyptian-brokered agreement calls, among other things, for holding presidential and parliamentary elections in the Palestinian territories sometime during the first half of 2010.
Under such circumstances, it is easy to see why Hamas could win the next election.
Khaled Abu Toameh
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