Middle East: Former Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad announced on March 9 his plans to run in the upcoming Palestinian Legislative Council elections. In an extensive interview published in the front page of the leading Palestinian daily Al Quds, Fayyad said he plans to “compile a list of independent individuals who will respond in an honorable, transparent and competitive manner to the upcoming legislature election.”
Omar Bseiso, a Gaza-based election expert, told Al-Monitor that the former prime minister’s announcement was a reminder to Palestinian voters of the right they had been “deprived of for more than 15 years.” Bseiso, who worked on Fayyad’s 2006 campaign, said the only problem he had with Fayyad was ‘his long political and social absence.’
Fayyad, who is now a visiting professor at Princeton University, told Al-Monitor that his absence was forced on him. “After the end of my time in government, I tried to work in civil society and set up an NGO, but the ruling forces prevented our organization from working in 2015.”
In February 2017, UN Secretary-General Fayad presented the peace envoy position to Libya, but his appointment was exploited bizarrely. Nikki Haley, then the US envoy to the UN, blocked the appointment of Fayyad because he is Palestinian. Haley said the United States did not recognize a Palestinian state “or support the signal” that would send Fayyad’s appointment.
Ali Jarbawi, a political science lecturer at Bir Zeit University, said the diversity that Fayyad would offer is significant, especially after the prolonged drought in the election. ‘It is unclear after this long time how he and his list will fare. “It will depend on who is on his list and what other lists will be presented,” Jarbawi told Al-Monitor.
In his interview, Fayyad said that he is absolutely committed to national unity. “What is needed to meet the current challenges is a national unity government in which we have all sectors of the Palestinian political landscape and not a majority government. It is a principled and final decision that we will not let go, no matter what, ”he said.
Jarbawi said Fayyad’s support for a national unity government was in line with what the leading Hamas and Fatah factions had said in public. “He plays the same tune that Fatah’s Jibril Rajoub and Hamas leaders said. A national unity government will give Fayyad the opportunity to return to a senior post. ”
Jamal Dajani, the former head of communications in the Rami Hamdallah government, called the move a positive development. “Fayyad has the experience at the local level and is respected internationally,” he told Al-Monitor. ‘Although many Palestinians would rather see new and young faces and not the recycling of old faces, Fayyad could possibly include it in his new party. More inclusivity and diversity will only strengthen Palestinians and not weaken them. ”
Similarly, Fadi Elsalamen, a Palestinian anti-corruption activist in Washington, told Al-Monitor that the good news about Fayyad is that he is not a corrupt Fatah official and that he is not Hamas. “He must be able to get the votes of those who are not happy with Fatah and Hamas.”
Elsalameen, a senior fellow at the US security project, said Fayyad’s vulnerability is his years as prime minister. ‘Fayyad is still seen as someone who worked for [Palestinian President Mahmoud] Abbas and carried out his economic and security policies. It’s good that Fayyad is running, but I do not expect it to make a big splash. ‘
Hani Almasri, the Masarat think tank director, agreed that Fayyad would not receive a large number of votes. Almasri told Al-Monitor that it was unclear whether Fayyad would pass the election threshold.
Almasri said the former prime minister was encouraged not to present separately but rather to join an existing list to improve his seat chances.
Palestinian pollster Khalil Shikaki said: “Fayyad’s list is not going to differ much from the election outcome. It has a reasonable chance of exceeding the threshold, but not much beyond that. But if Fayyad is number 2 on a list created by Marwan Barghouti and led by Nasser al-Kidwa, or is part of a larger reform coalition, their chances of taking Fatah’s votes will increase significantly. Together with a united left-wing menu, such a reform coalition could influence the next Palestinian governing coalition’s composition. ”
In addition to his support for a unity government, Fayyad also calls for a much stronger stance on Palestinian rights with the United States and the international community. “We must go back to the beginning, also to the PLO positions before the 1988 Palestinian peace initiative,” he said in the Al Quds interview. Palestinians must “insist that Israel recognize the legitimate national rights of the Palestinian people, including the right to self-determination.”
“This is a logical request that can be defended internationally, and we can use it to gain the global support of those who support peace, justice and equality,” he said.
Fayyad also rejects the restrictions that the Quartet (the European Union, Russia, the United Nations and the United States) are trying to impose on Palestinian nominees. “We must insist on our right to equal treatment and we must stop expecting salvation by Washington.”
There is no doubt that Fayyad’s entry into the electoral milieu offers an important perspective to voters who are looking for an alternative that has clean hands as opposed to the major factions that have dominated the political scene. But will his participation – following his long absence from daily politics – have an impact on the political landscape?