Landmark Fatah congress becomes political battlefield
Amid mounting anger in the middle of Gaza City, photos of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas went up in flames.
The high-energy protest in early October -- an attempted show of strength by Abbas's rival, Mohammed Dahlan -- dissipated almost as abruptly as it began, with the buses that shuttled his supporters in from around the blockaded Gaza Strip quickly refilling.
In the one month since then, tension has mounted between the two men, especially ahead of the General Congress of the Fatah movement, the political faction that dominates Palestinian politics, headed by Abbas and which Dahlan was expelled from.
No congress has been held since 2009, and this one, held Tuesday, has exposed the divisions within Palestinian politics, according to Palestinian political experts, as Abbas attempts to fight off Dahlan's challenge for the Palestinian leadership.
"In my opinion, the main goal is to strengthen Fatah as the de facto dominant power within the Palestinian Authority," Nur Arafeh, policy fellow at the Palestinian Al-Shabaka think tank, told Anadolu Agency.
The gathering's image as a way for Abbas to consolidate power -- as opposed to the stated goal of paving the way for a successor -- has been bolstered by rumors that he is trying to expel his internal opponents by only inviting supporters to the event.
"It’s a sign of weakness that they want to re-establish their dominance. That Mahmoud Abbas is convening this conference without inviting thousands of members is a sign of weakness," said Arafeh.