Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on 30 November announced that primary elections for the Fatah Movement in Gaza would resume. The announcement came only a day after Abbas had suspended voting due to the outbreak of violence and allegations of fraud.

‘The central committee has decided to continue with the primaries in all areas where they have so far not taken place and as quickly as possible,’ said Nabil Shaath, deputy prime minister of the Palestinian Authority. Elections were due to proceed in Gaza and the 10 West Bank constituencies where they had been halted. The results of primary elections, which had taken place before the suspension, including in East Jerusalem on 29 November, would be respected, President Abbas said.

The first stage of elections held in the West Bank on 26 November saw Marwan Barghouti, the Fatah politician jailed for life in Israel, win 34,000 out of 40,000 votes. The result is widely considered to be a reflection of a generational shift towards the ‘young guard’ within the movement, a trend that was expected to continue in the Gaza primaries. But the elections had to be cancelled after armed men disrupted voting at several polling stations when they did not find their names on the registration list.

The primaries mark the first time that Fatah candidates are being elected rather than appointed by party leaders. Those elected will appear on Fatah’s final list of candidates eligible to stand in parliamentary elections in the Palestinian areas scheduled for 25 January.

Hamas, which will be competing with Fatah for votes, had warned against delaying parliamentary elections as a result of the suspension of the Fatah primaries.

Israel too has witnessed dramatic change on its political scene. Following the launch of the new centrist Kadima party in November by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, several prominent members of the Labour Party defected to join the new grouping. Speculation was mounting in late November as to whether Shimon Peres, the recently ousted leader of the Labour Party, will soon follow suit. Kadima has said that it would pursue a permanent peace deal in the context of a two-state solution with the Palestinians.