Ramallah, West Bank Palestinian primaries that replaced the ruling Fatah party's corruption-tainted old guard with young activists could give it a crucial boost in January parliamentary elections, Palestinian analysts said Sunday.
The housecleaning could help Fatah beat back a challenge from the Islamic group Hamas, which advocates the destruction of Israel. A strong showing by Hamas would damage hopes for restarting Israel-Palestinian peace talks.
Final results released Sunday showed Fatah's young activists trouncing the entrenched old-timers in the party's first-ever primaries, held Friday in five of the biggest districts in the West Bank. Primaries in other districts were expected in coming days.
Hamas did well in local elections earlier this year, largely because its clean-government campaign resonated among Palestinians fed up with years of Fatah corruption.
The new generation of Fatah politicians struggled in vain for years to break into important positions of power in the Palestinian leadership, but were blocked by Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian leader who founded Fatah and controlled it for four decades.
After Arafat died last year, his successor, Mahmoud Abbas, called for the primaries and blocked demands by party veterans to reserve slots for them on the parliamentary slate.
The biggest winner in the Fatah polls was Marwan Barghouti, a charismatic party leader who is serving five consecutive life sentences in an Israeli prison for his involvement in the killings of four Israelis and a Greek monk.
In Friday's primaries, Barghouti won 90 percent of the 40,000 votes in Ramallah, affirming his status as a possible heir to Abbas.