Jailed Marwan Barghouti supports challenge to Palestinian president Abbas

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Imprisoned Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti has endorsed a list of challengers opposing president Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah movement in legislative elections next month, the head of the dissident list said on Thursday.

Barghouti, who is serving multiple life sentences in an Israeli jail, has been a closely watched figure ahead of the first Palestinian elections in 15 years.

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The deadline for submitting candidate lists for the May 22 legislative polls expired on Wednesday.

Barghouti’s wife Fadwa is the second candidate on the “Freedom” list headed by Nasser al-Kidwa, nephew of the late iconic Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

Freedom “is supported by Marwan Barghouti, and the proof of course is the presence of his wife” on the list, Kidwa told AFP.

“We had discussions... not with him directly but (with) many of his associates, supporters and family,” he added.

Kidwa said Barghouti’s input helped shape the movement’s “program” and individual candidates.

Kidwa was expelled from Fatah earlier this year after announcing his intention to run for the Palestinian presidency in a July 31 vote, a move seen as a direct affront to the 85-year-old Abbas.

Abbas has not yet declared his plans for the presidential election.

There remains widespread speculation that Barghouti may mount a presidential run from prison.

Israel has convicted him of orchestrating deadly attacks during the 2000-2005 second Palestinian intifada, or uprising. Barghouti refused to recognize the court during his trial.

A recent poll showed that 22 percent of Palestinians support him as their next president.

Leader of the Hamas Islamist movement that controls Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, polled second with 14 percent support, followed by Abbas at 8 percent.

Abbas won the last presidential election held in 2005.

But legislative polls the following year saw Hamas win a surprise victory, a result not recognized by Abbas and his secular Fatah.

Violent clashes between Fatah and Hamas followed the election, with the Islamists taking power in Gaza in 2007.

After years of bitter division, the rival movements have agreed to hold elections across the Palestinians territories, including the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza, where Israel maintains a tight blockade.

The Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority, based in the West Bank, and Hamas also insist that Palestinians in Israel-annexed east Jerusalem be allowed to vote.

Israel bans all Palestinian political activity in Jerusalem, which it calls the “undivided capital” of the Jewish state.

Thirty-six groups have submitted lists to run in May’s legislative polls.

Palestinian election officials have validated 13. The approved candidate lists will be published next week.

Read more: Palestine reports 93 pct voter registration for long-awaited elections

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