PFLP Plans Elections to Replace Assassinated Secretary General
By Eyad Khalifa
The Israeli assassination of Abu Ali Mustapha, the secretary general of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), has left political analysts and press commentators speculating on possible successors.
Stirring up the debate is the fact that no deputy secretary general was elected at the PFLP’s sixth general conference, which witnessed the resignation of former historical leader George Habash and the election of the late Mustapha as his successor.
The official void left by Mustapha’s death has aroused speculation that Habash might formally reassert his still-potent leadership in the front by taking another run at the secretary general post, an option the PFLP itself has dismissed.
According to sources close to the leader, “George Habash is not thinking at all of returning to his post as the front’s secretary general, and he is certain that the front is capable of electing a successor for the martyr Mustapha.”
Meanwhile, Habash has ruled out the possibility of any divisions within the front against the backdrop of elections, the sources added.
The fact that Habash has maintained his PFLP membership and leadership, despite resigning from the post of secretary general, is said to provide some insurance against the factionalism that has long haunted the PFLP.
Although Habash has been relieved of many of his former responsibilities, he still oversees the organization through his new post as PFLP “president” created last July. Habash often visited the PFLP headquarters in Damascus and Amman and contacted Mustapha while he was still alive, according to the sources.
To focus on some of the ramifications of the upcoming election, Albawaba.com interviewed PFLP Politburo member Maher Al Taher, who leads the organization’s activities abroad. Taher, who observers claim is a potential successor to Mustapha, said that the front’s bylaws dictated that the Central Committee should elect a secretary general and a deputy within two weeks.
Following are excerpts from the interview:
Q. There is speculation that there will be divisions within the front in the upcoming elections. What are your comments on this?
A. The popular front has its own elected leadership, which will meet and elect the new secretary general in a democratic way.
Q. What are the prospects for holding a meeting under the present circumstances, with Palestinians living in Palestine and in the Diaspora, making one meeting place look like a difficult proposition?
A. All members of the Central Committee will participate in electing the secretary general in one way or another. We have our own ways of holding the central committee meetings and electing the secretary general with the consent of all sides.
Q. Do you plan on running for secretary general?
A. The matter should be decided on by the Central Committee in a democratic way.
Observers expect many figures to be nominated for the post, including Abdel Rahim Mallouh, the front representative at the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization in Ramallah.
However, many analysts rule out the possibility of Mallouh’s success due his moderate orientation, which is close to the Palestinian Authority and the PLO.
Other potential candidates include Taher himself; Abu Ahmed Fuad, a Politburo member and military leader; and Ali Saadat, the Politburo member in charge of the front’s organization inside Palestine.
The PFLP was established in December 1967 following the trend of the Palestinian Pan-Arabist movement to adopt Marxism. Throughout its history, the front has suffered from internal divisions, the most important of which was the breakaway of Nayef Hawatmeh, who established the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) in February 1968 - Albawaba.com