Fatah—the ruling faction of the PLO that controls the Palestinian Authority—is holding its seventh party congress this week. According to Grant Rumley, Mahmoud Abbas likely sees the occasion as a capstone to his ongoing purge of the party ranks:
In recent years, Abbas has launched an all-out inquisition into dissenters within his own party. He’s fired rival Palestinian officials, stripped his rivals in parliament of their immunity, and even sent his Palestinian Authority security forces into unruly refugee camps to quash dissent. He has fueled his consolidation of power by summarily excommunicating party members. . . .
A bloc of Fatah dissenters met last month in the al-Amari refugee camp in Ramallah to discuss how they would react to the upcoming party congress. When Abbas got wind of the meeting, he ordered the PA security forces into the camp to break up the meeting. . . .
Abbas has taken unprecedented steps to silence dissent [at the congress itself]. . . For one, he has reduced the number of delegates attending from over 2,000 [at the last congress] in 2009 to 1,400. For another, he has changed the location from a hotel in Bethlehem at the last conference to his headquarters in Ramallah, [where security forces loyal to him can keep watch].
The congress this week will allow Abbas to solidify his purges of dissenters within his own party. At the last congress, members of Abbas’ presidential guard roamed the balloting areas and in one instance instructed a delegate on who was “the president’s man.” This time, . . . Abbas will be able to reward his loyalists and sideline his rivals. As Dimitri Diliani, a member of Fatah’s Revolutionary Council, told me: “We used to call Arafat a dictator, but compared with [Abbas], Arafat was a champion of democracy.”