GAZA STRIP - Fatah leaders in the Gaza Strip resigned en masse on Thursday, protesting last weekend's election at the faction's Sixth Congress in Bethlehem, which one member labeled as "massive fraud."
Gaza-based Fatah leaders aren't the only ones questioning the results of the election for the party's Central Committee.
Former Palestinian Authority (PA) Prime Minister Ahmed Quereia (Abu Ala), who was not reelected to the Central Committee, said there was mounting discontent over perceived election fraud.
"There are many big question marks about the election," Quereia said, "the way it was conducted and the way the votes were counted," the former prime minister told the London-based daily, al-Quds al-Arabi.
"There were behind-the-scenes arrangements that removed some names and added others to the [final] list," he said.
Quereia questioned the election of Jibril Rajoub, Mohammed Dahlan and Tawfik Tirawi, three former PA security chiefs, who had worked closely with Israel.
"Was it by coincidence that these men won?" he asked or does it indicate that "someone wants to see rubber stamps" included among Fatah's top leaders, he suggested.
"This is a harsh and difficult phase and there are offers for a temporary state without Jerusalem and the refugees," Quereia said.
"Apparently there are some people who have taken this into consideration," he said, intimating that PA President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) and his aides reserved several top slots on the committee.
Fatah leaders in the Gaza Strip also rejected the election's results.
"The Fatah leaders in the Gaza Strip reject the results of the vote," senior Fatah official Ahmed Abu Nasr said. "These elections have damaged Fatah's reputation," he added.
The Gaza-based Fatah leaders, prevented by Hamas from leaving Gaza to attend the five-day conference, had been told they would be able to vote in the election, even by cell phone.
In the end, they were excluded from voting and have demanded an inquiry into the balloting.
Meanwhile in Tunis, exiled leader Farouq Qaddoumi said he is still the faction's legitimate secretary, the Gaza-based Internet news agency, Shehab, reported on Wednesday.
Qaddoumi neither attended the assembly nor submitted his name for the Central Committee, which he has been part of for the past 20 years. He too rejected the proceedings in Bethlehem, noting that electing Abbas by a show of hands was not legitimate.
"This form of voting is considered as indirect coercion to influence the will of the electorate and give absolute power to the ruler to banish his opponents," Shebab quoted Qaddoumi as saying.
Sources: The Jerusalem Post, Ma'an