Ramallah: The International Crisis Group (ICG) warned on Wednesday that the struggle to succeed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas could lead to "massive protests, repression" and the complete collapse of the Palestinian Authority.
The think tank made this prediction a day after 87-year-old Abbas met US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Ramallah. Blinken was in the area to call for peace amid an increase in Israeli-Palestinian violence.
In the occupied West Bank, where the Palestinian Authority (PA) is located, there is constant speculation about Abbas' successor due to his advanced age and persistent health rumors.
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The Brussels-based ICG said in its report that following Abbas's resignation as president, "elections based on legal procedures" would be the "least likely" outcome.
Abbas is in charge of the PA, the PLO and Fatah, the secular political party founded by the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
After Arafat's death in 2004, Abbas was elected to serve as president. Since then, presidential elections have not been held in Palestine.
According to the report, Abbas has "hollowed out or deactivated the institutions and processes that would otherwise decide who will replace him" as he has refused to name a successor.
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The ICG warned of possible "massive protests, repression, violence and even the collapse of the PA" and said it was "unclear who will succeed him, and by what process."
The report claimed that any last-ditch effort to name a successor to speed up the transition process "will go awry". Abbas has repeatedly canceled plans to hold presidential elections, most recently in 2021 when he did so because Israel would not allow polling in East Jerusalem, which it annexed and the Palestinians wanted their future capital. as claimed.
Palestinian experts widely believed that Abbas withdrew from the election out of concern that Hamas, the Islamist organization in charge of the Gaza Strip, would defeat Fatah.
In the absence of a successor, Abbas promoted the PA's Minister of Civil Affairs, Hussein al-Sheikh, to the PLO's second-highest position. The ICG report mentions Sheikh and PA's intelligence chief Majid Faraj as possible successors.
Although the two men are considered capable of working with the international community and hold significant power within the PA, the report states that "neither has been able to garner much support in Palestinian society."
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This includes a second tier of "successors-to-be", including Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh, Palestinian Football Association president Jibril Rajoub and former Gaza security chief Mohammad Dahlan, who was later exiled to the United Arab Emirates. Controversy reports from Abbas claim that although each of these individuals "has their own network," none "can stand on their own."