Hamas Deliberates Over Its New Leadership

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Palestinian policemen belonging to the Hamas movement attend a training session in Gaza City on 15 October 2012. (Photo: AFP - Mohammes Abed)

By: Ahmad al-Dabba

Published Wednesday, October 17, 2012

After the head of Hamas announced that he will not run in the party’s coming elections, mystery shrouds the future of the Gazan politburo’s leadership.

Gazan Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh appears to be preparing himself to succeed Khaled Meshal as president of the Hamas politburo, as indicated by recent developments on the Palestinian political scene.

Yesterday he confirmed his decision to delegate all his duties to his deputy and former economy minister Ziad al-Zaza in order to focus on matters related to Hamas and organizational duties inside Gaza.

Haniyeh may have set his sights on the presidency of the politburo, but several obstacles stand in his way, chief among them that he cannot head the government and Hamas at the same time.

Haniyeh and other Hamas leaders have not denied the prime minister’s ambition to head the politburo.

Haniyeh’s main rival is expected to be the politburo’s vice president Moussa Abu Marzouk, who enjoys broad support both inside and outside Gaza.

According to informed sources inside the Haniyeh government, Zaza has begun taking over Haniyeh’s duties and is currently conducting all of the government’s official affairs, including heading the weekly cabinet meetings.

This will allow Haniyeh to move on to another phase, encouraged by his landslide victory in Hamas’s last elections in Gaza where he received 85 percent of the vote.

Meshaal has already announced that he will not continue as president of the politburo, and his preferred candidate, Saleh al-Arouri, member of the politburo in the West Bank, has also declined to join the race.

After Meshaal, Haniyeh now seems the strongest and most popular Hamas figure, both inside Gaza and the West Bank.

Observers in Gaza, however, say Haniyeh’s victory is far from assured.

Mostafa Ibrahim, a journalist and political analyst from the Strip, told Al-Akhbar that Haniyeh’s intentions are clear, but there are several factors against him.

According to Ibrahim, Hamas prefers to have its politburo president outside Palestine to make it more difficult for Israel to ban him from travel or assassinate him.

The functions of the president are mainly diplomatic. They require freedom of movement from country to country without impediments. As a resident of Gaza, Haniyeh does not enjoy this freedom.

Ibrahim also indicated that the Shura council cannot elect Haniyeh unless he resigns as prime minister. This would constitute a political and constitutional dilemma for Hamas, which maintains that Haniyeh is a legitimate prime minister appointed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Haniyeh’s resignation would be the knockout blow to Hamas’s legitimacy in Gaza. Any new appointment for prime minister will need to be approved by Abbas in Ramallah.

The electoral system inside Hamas is different from other Palestinian parties. Its leadership is chosen in complete secrecy by the Shura council, whose members are unknown, except that they are chosen equally from Gaza, the West Bank, occupation prisons, and the diaspora.

Mostafa al-Sawwaf, a journalist and political analyst close to Hamas, disagrees with Ibrahim. He says that Haniyeh’s resignation is pointless since Hamas leaders are chosen by the council without an application for candidacy.

Sawwaf, who is also the general director of Hamas’s information ministry, adds that there is no competition or candidacy in Hamas elections. The Shura council chooses those who are best fit for the position.

Sawwaf also denied that Haniyeh’s appointment of a deputy to take over many of his duties means that he intends to take over Hamas’ leadership.

Nevertheless, Sawwaf did not rule out the possibility of Haniyeh being appointed as president of the politburo. He did not rule out anyone else either.

He said the issue is shrouded in secrecy, and that the Shura council might not even announce the name of the new president for security and strategic reasons, although how the new president could carry out his diplomatic missions in secret remains unclear.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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