Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Rogue Candidates Troubling to Arafat Independents Upset Slate-Making Process

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Rogue Candidates Troubling to Arafat Independents Upset Slate-Making Process

Article excerpt

Nabiha abu Rumeilah is the sort of would-be politician who is giving PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat heartburn these days.

Active in the Palestinian women's movement for more than a decade, Abu Rumeilah, 38, a homemaker and mother of nine, says she is well-qualified to run for the Palestinian Council.

She says that, as a poor woman who grew up in a refugee camp, she feels uniquely qualified to speak for those on the fringe of Palestinian society. As an active member of Fatah, the largest Palestinian faction, she thought she should get the faction's backing for her candidacy.

"But they did not even want to acknowledge my existence," Abu Rumeilah said bitterly in an interview in her two-room, cinder-block home near the West Bank city of Hebron. "They said I could not be on the slate."

So Abu Rumeilah is running as an independent in the elections Jan. 20, as are dozens of others. The Palestinian Elections Commission says it has been deluged with information requests from would-be candidates.

Mohammad Shtayyeh, deputy director of the commission, said: "The number of potential candidates is huge. There are hundreds in every district."

The candidates springing up like mushrooms across the West Bank and Gaza Strip are evidence of the bind that Arafat's Fatah finds itself in as it forms slates of candidates for each of 12 electoral districts.

His greatest problem is how to pick slates without alienating important clans, activists and political figures. Every Abu Rumeilah running independently represents a failure for the Palestine Liberation Organization chairman. Fatah Dominates

Arafat's problem can be called an embarrassment of riches. For decades, Fatah urged its supporters to actively oppose Israel's occupation. Thousands of men and women came up through the ranks of trade unions, various social action committees and underground guerrilla cells.

Now many more of those veteran activists believe they deserve a seat on the 82-member Palestinian Council than Fatah can possibly accommodate. Potential candidates are eager to be members of what everyone assumes will be the party with the lion's share of council seats. …

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