Senior Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti is planning to stand for election as Palestinian Authority president despite an official request from the movement only to seek election to the Legislative Authority, news agencies reported on Sunday. Barghouti has been in an Israeli jail since 2002.
According to the UAE's Rai al-Youm, Barghouti's wife Fadwa, who is a member of the Fatah Revolutionary Council, a senior aide of Mahmoud Abbas "almost threatened" her husband not to stand for president. However, she said that he is determined to run for president and parliament on a special ticket. On Saturday, Israeli Channel 2 TV revealed that Hussein Al-Sheikh's visit to Barghouti in prison was approved by Israeli politicians.
For many of the Palestinians loyal to Fatah, Marwan Barghouti would be the preferred candidate, even over Abbas. The imprisoned leader enjoys a lot of popularity among Fatah members and officials.
Senior Fatah officials, including Naser Al-Qidwa, a cousin of the later President Yasser Arafat, support Barghouti's candidacy against Majed Faraj and Al-Sheikh, whose presence in the political corps is linked to that of Abbas.
Fatah and PA leaders believe that Marwan Barghouti will reject requests for him not to stand for election as he has nothing to lose if he is beaten. On the other hand, if he wins, he will bring a lot of international attention to the plight of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.
Rai al-Youm reported that Al-Sheikh offered Barghouti a place at the top of Fatah's ticket for the parliamentary election if he agrees not to stand for the presidency, but he refused. He told Al-Sheikh and everyone else that he has also rejected a phone call from Mohammad Dahlan, the former Fatah security official.
Al-Sheikh apparently promised Barghouti that the PA would lead a campaign for his release from prison if he agrees not to stand for president.