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Top candidates in the Palestinian elections

/ Source: The Associated Press

Marwan Barghouti, 46, is the top candidate of President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah Party, the most popular leader of the second Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation and considered a possible successor to Abbas. Barghouti, a legislator in the outgoing parliament, is serving five consecutive life terms in an Israeli prison for involvement in attacks that killed four Israelis and a Greek monk. A former ally of Israeli peace activists, Barghouti backs the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, but says Palestinians should use force to drive Israel from occupied lands. A leader of Fatah’s young guard, he is pushing for a generational change in the movement. Barghouti often meets with Fatah activists who visit him in jail. Israel has said it would not grant him early release, though there is persistent speculation he would be freed in the right political context.

Mohammed Abu Ali Yatta, 50, is second on the Fatah list. He has been in Israeli prison for 26 years, sentenced to life for killing an Israeli settler. He has not previously occupied any position in Fatah and is believed to have been put on the list as a gesture to the thousands of Palestinians held by Israel. He is among the longest serving inmates.

Intissar Wazir was born in Gaza City in 1941 and is a longtime leader of the Palestinian women’s movement. She has been welfare minister since 1996 and is the widow of PLO military chief Khalil al-Wazir, who was killed in an Israeli commando raid in Tunis in 1988. She has been a member of the Palestine National Council since 1974.

Ismail Haniyeh, 46, is the top Hamas candidate. Born in Gaza’s Shati refugee camp, he graduated from Gaza City’s Islamic University 1987 with a degree in Arabic literature and became a close associate of Hamas founder Sheik Ahmed Yassin. He was expelled by Israel to south Lebanon in 1992, returned to Gaza a year later and became the dean of the Islamic University. In 1998, he took charge of Yassin’s office. A pragmatist, he served as a liaison between Hamas and Palestinian Authority, established in 1994. He rose to prominence after Israel’s assassinations in 2004 of Yassin and Yassin’s successor, Abdel Aziz Rantisi. He has been a member of the political leadership of Hamas since the 1990s.

Mohammed Abu Teir, 55, is second on the Hamas list. Spent 25 years in Israeli jails. He is from Jerusalem and is a former member of Fatah and of the radical Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command. With his bright orange beard, dyed with henna in line with Islamic tradition, Abu Teir preaches in local mosques and is a patriarch of the Abu Teir clan in the neighborhood of Um Tuba on the edge of Jerusalem.

Jamila Shanti was born in 1955 and is the leading woman candidate for Hamas and is third on the group’s national list. A holder of a doctorate in English, she taught at the Islamic University in Gaza before resigning to campaign for the elections. She is a founder of the women’s section in Hamas.

Mustafa Barghouti was born in Jerusalem in 1954 and leads the new party on a platform of clean government. A physician known throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip for running a health care think tank and a pro-democracy lobby group, he ran against Abbas for the Palestinian Authority presidency last year, winning about 20 percent of the vote. In 1991, Barghouti — a distant relative of Marwan Barghouti — participated in the Madrid peace conference that paved the way for peace accords between Israel and the Palestinians. Articulate and media-savvy, he has campaigned against Israel’s separation barrier.

Rawya Al Shawa is No. 2 on Barghouti’s list. A legislator in the outgoing parliament, Al Shawa is from a prominent family in Gaza. Her father and her husband both headed the Gaza City municipality. She waged an anti-corruption campaign in parliament and was an outspoken critic of Yasser Arafat.

Salam Fayyad was born in 1952. He founded the new Third Way Party, which favors negotiations with Israel and sweeping reform to root out corruption. He has been minister of finance since 2002 and is credited with doing much to clean up the Palestinian Authority finances. He was formerly a senior executive at the International Monetary Fund and received postgraduate degrees from the University of Texas.

Hanan Ashrawi, 59, emerged as a prominent figure in Palestinian politics during the first Palestinian uprising, which erupted in 1987. Eloquent and often feisty, she was official spokeswoman for the Palestinian delegation to the Middle East Peace talks 1991-93 and headed a committee responsible for Jerusalem’s citizens rights after the signing of the peace agreement. She was appointed minister of higher education in 1996 but quit her post in a high-profile rebuke to Arafat over corruption in 1998. A legislator in the outgoing parliament, she serves on a number of international bodies, including the Council of Foreign Relations. She is a member of the Palestinians’ Christian minority.