JERUSALEM (May. 25)
Supporters of the Palestine Liberation Organization won control of the Nablus Chamber of Commerce in a vote over the weekend widely seen as a prelude to the election of autonomous Palestinian institutions in the administered territories.
The national list, dominated by Yasir Arafat’s Al Fatah wing of the PLO, won 48.5 percent of the vote in the West Bank’s largest city. The fundamentalist Islamic bloc got 45 percent.
But the regional election system allotted the PLO backers nine of the 12 seats on the chamber’s Executive and three to the fundamentalists.
The victory was important for the PLO nationalists, who lost elections to the chambers of commerce in Hebron and Ramallah.
The chambers are the only institutions Palestinians in the territories are permitted to elect at the present time. While their official function is to promote local business and investment, they serve as the framework of future political bodies.
In addition to Fatah, the winning list included the rejectionist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Arab Communist Party.
The victors celebrated by driving around town honking horns and waving Palestinian flags.
Considering that Nablus, with a population of over 100,000, has been a hotbed of intifada activity, Israeli troops were out in force to guard against disturbances. But the elections were conducted without incident.
PLO supporters claimed during the campaign that the outcome would determine the status of the PLO among the Palestinian people. The next round of elections will be held in East Jerusalem and Hebron.
A mass rally was held Saturday in Gaza, at which Palestinians urged an end to the growing violence within their community. The number of Palestinians murdered by fellow Arabs, ostensibly for collaborating with the authorities, exceeds the number killed in clashes with Israeli forces.