GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip – Brief profiles of the main parties in the Palestinian elections:
The party of Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has dominated Palestinian politics since its founding four decades ago, and has run the Palestinian Authority since its creation in 1994. Fatah advocates establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem and has conducted peace talks with Israel. However, Yasser Arafat and other senior Fatah leaders also established an armed group, the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, after the outbreak of renewed fighting with Israel in 2000, and the top Fatah candidate Wednesday, jailed uprising leader Marwan Barghouti, advocates trying to drive Israelis out of the West Bank by force. Fatah has been wracked by internal fighting and tainted by corruption.
HAMAS (running under the name "reform and change"):
Founded in 1987, Hamas advocates Israel's destruction and has carried out scores of suicide bombings in Israel. Competing in an election for the first time, Hamas ran on a clean government platform. Its leaders recently have softened their rhetoric toward Israel, saying that while they reserve the right to resist occupation, they would not rule out indirect contacts with the Jewish state. In the past year, Hamas has observed an informal truce with Israel, in exchange for Abbas' offer of political participation. Hama says it would seek the service ministries, such as health, eduation and welfare, in the next government, and hinted it would largely leave diplomacy to Abbas.
The third most popular party after Fatah and Hamas calls for government reform. It is headed by human rights campaigner Mustafa Barghouti who runs a health care think tank and pro-democracy lobby group. He won about 20 percent of the vote in the presidential race against Abbas last year. However, pollsters say smaller parties will be hurt by the battle between Hamas and Fatah and the polarization of voters.
Headed by former Finance Minister Salam Fayyad, the party calls for negotiations with Israel and internal reform. Fayyad is a former senior executive at the International Monetary Fund. No. 2 on the list is Hanan Ashrawi, a former Cabinet minister and negotiator.
POPULAR FRONT FOR THE LIBERATION OF PALESTINE:
The small secular faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization is headed by Ahmed Saadat, who is imprisoned in the West Bank town of Jericho for ordering the assassination of an Israeli Cabinet minister in 2001. The group advocates setting up a secular state for all its citizens in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. It has carried out several deadly attacks against Israel in recent years.