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Arafat’s nephew censures Mahmud Abbas for ‘totalitarian’ governance

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
The undated photo shows Nasser al-Kidwa, nephew of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

A nephew of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat says the Palestinian Authority under President Mahmud Abbas is a “totalitarian” government.

"He (Abbas) does whatever he wants, without any consideration to anything," said Nasser al-Kidwa, who returned to the besieged Gaza Strip after a year of self-imposed exile. He said Abbas respected “neither the law nor the institutions, nor traditions, even family traditions.”

Kidwa, 69, a former Palestinian foreign minister, was ejected from Fatah in 2021 after trying to form a list of candidates to challenge Abbas’s loyalists in Palestinian legislative elections that had been scheduled for May that year.

Abbas's decision to cancel the elections, which would have been the first in 15 years, dialed down his popularity.

Kidwa said there was broad awareness about Abbas's dictatorial tendencies, including with Fatah. "It is not a matter of seeing the problems. It is the problem of commanding the necessary courage to stand up and say ‘no, we cannot do it this way.’"

"The institutions were destroyed, sometimes, I would say by design," said Kidwa. "He (Abbas) is ruling by decree, and decrees that are ridiculous," he said. "During Arafat's time there was political disagreement... But not fear." 

Abbas currently leads Fatah, the Palestinian Authority and the Palestine Liberation Organization, effectively giving him full control over Palestinian politics in the occupied West Bank.

Kidwa raised specific alarm about the collapse of Palestinian institutions, which are limited in scope by the Israeli occupation but still meaningful.

Signs of resentment have been growing in recent months with many pointing the finger at Abbas over his security cooperation with Israel.

Elsewhere in his remarks, Kidwa warned that given Palestinian political divisions and the lack of an obvious successor, the days after Abbas's death could be "chaotic," and "maybe violent."

Some say Abbas has already picked his successor. In May, he issued a decree appointing Hussein Al Sheikh, an insider, as the new secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, a move widely seen as an anointment. Al Sheikh is regarded by many as unpopular, with just two percent of Palestinians naming him as their desired next leader, according to a poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research.

Kidwa said any agreement to install Al Sheikh, or anyone else as leader, following an undemocratic deal cooked up by "15-20 guys in a room that's full of smoke" would be "refused by the Palestinian people."

Fatah and Hamas have been at odds ever since the latter scored a landslide victory in elections in 2006. Hamas governs the Gaza Strip, while Fatah has set up offices in the West Bank.

The factions agreed several times over the past years to reconcile. The Tel Aviv regime responded by suspending the so-called peace talks with the Palestinian Authority.


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