Marwan Barghouti, the Tanzim leader jailed in Israel, scored an impressive victory in the Fatah’s Ramallah region primaries, winning 96 percent of the vote and beating out 44 other candidates.
In response, Meretz Chairman Yossi Beilin called Saturday for Barghouti to be released from prison.
According to Beilin, the victory of Fatah's younger generation is important for the Palestinian Authority's democratization process.
"Barghouti heads one of the Palestinian camps that do want peace and so this is the moment to end his sentence and allow him to lead the Palestinian nation, in preparation for an historical peace agreement with Israel," he said.
Commenting on Beilin's remarks, Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said that Israel would never release Barghouti from prison.
"We must not forget that he is a cold-blooded murderer who was sentenced by the court to five life sentences," he said.
Jail for life
Barghouti stood trial was sent to jail for life after being captured by the IDF during operation “Defensive Shield” in 2002.
His electoral victory places Barghouti at a high spot on the Fatah list ahead of the upcoming Palestinian general elections, and he could possibly capture the top spot.
Official results from all districts have not yet been published, but according to estimates Barghouti’s camp and the Fatah’s younger generation will emerge as the primaries’ big winners. At this time it is unclear whether elected prisoners held in Israeli jails will keep their spot on the list or be replaced by others.
The primaries were held only in the West Bank Friday, after the Palestinian Authority decided to put off the vote in Gaza for fear of violent clashes.
The historical vote marks the first time since the Fatah movement’s establishment where its candidates for the Palestinian Legislative Council are chosen through internal elections. In 1996, most of the candidates were picked by the movement’s leadership, headed by late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
The primaries were held against a backdrop of speculation that general elections in the PA will be postponed, but Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas issued a presidential decree recently ordering the elections to be held on the scheduled date, January 25.
Attila Somfalvi and Roee Nahmias contributed to the report