Does Abbas intend to run for president after all?


Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, who signed the decree for this year’s elections, has yet to announce whether he intends to run for president.

In the past 10 years, he said on at least three occasions that if and when elections take place he will not stand. But Fatah strongman Jibril Rajoub has repeatedly stated that 85-year-old Abbas is the party’s only candidate for president.

Polls conducted as recently as December suggest that Abbas would lose in a head-to-head contest against Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh. Under the current power-sharing understanding between Fatah and Hamas, however, the Islamist movement has agreed not to challenge the Fatah nominee.

While the largely youthful Palestinian population under occupation has not known any leader other than Abu Mazen (Abbas’s nom de guerre), he faces a mix of apathy and rejection.

Senior advisers to the president told Arab News that it is “too early” to talk about the presidential race, scheduled for July 31, because all attention now is on making sure the legislative elections take place on May 22 and a new government is formed to represent all of the Palestinian areas occupied in 1967.

Najeeb Qadoumi, a member of the Palestinian National Council, told Arab News that the Palestinian leader’s achievements cannot be dismissed. Abbas persuaded 138 nations in the UN general assembly to recognize Palestine as a nonmember observer state, he said, and also stood up to “the most powerful man in the world,” US President Donald Trump, in defeating the so-called “deal of the century.”

Qadoumi highlighted Abbas’s boycott of the Trump administration after it moved the US Embassy to Jerusalem and announced its vision for peace that included the annexation of a third of the West Bank. US President Joe Biden and his team have announced that they plan to reverse many of Trump’s decisions that affected Palestinians, including its legalization of Israeli settlement activities. The new US administration also unambiguously stated its support for a two-state solution, and has resumed dialogue with the Palestinians.