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Palestinian Fatah party ends conference with boost for Abbas

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas tightened his hold on Fatah and shut out a key rival, according to unofficial results on Sunday of leadership elections in the movement which has dominated West Bank politics for decades.

The election comes at a time of intense behind-the-scenes battles among senior Fatah members to succeed Abbas once the 81-year-old decides to step down. 

However, Abbas has given no sign that he plans to retire from the presidency or his top jobs in Fatah and the Palestine Liberation Organisation. on Saturday, more than 1,300 Fatah delegates confirmed Abbas’ continued Fatah leadership role by acclamation and elected 18 members of the movement’s top decision-making Central Committee. Unofficial results indicated that top vote getters were Marwan Barghouti, a Palestinian uprising leader jailed by Israel, and Jibril Rajoub, a former West Bank security chief. Both are seen as potential Abbas successors, and their strong showing could improve their eventual succession bids.

While Abbas cemented his control over the movement, the re-election of party stalwarts and Abbas loyalists is bound to affirm Fatah’s public image as a stale, aging movement that has failed to deliver on Palestinian dreams of statehood and is out of touch with the concerns of ordinary Palestinians.  The elections took place on the last day of a Fatah conference that was also meant to block the return of Mohammed Dahlan, a former Abbas aide. 
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