Palestinian National Initiative
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|Leader||Dr. Mustafa Barghouti|
|Founded||17 June 2002|
|Headquarters||Ramallah, Palestinian Territories|
|Political position||Centre-left to left-wing|
|National affiliation||Democratic Alliance List|
Socialist International (observer)
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Its formation was formally announced on 17 June 2002 in Ramallah on the West Bank, part of the Palestinian Territories, by Haidar Abdel-Shafi, Dr Mustafa Barghouthi and Ibrahim Dakkak. The PNI views itself as a "democratic third force" in Palestinian politics and opposes the dichotomy between Fatah (which it views as corrupt and undemocratic) and Hamas (which it views as extremist and fundamentalist).
The platform of the PNI states:
"Only through the establishment of a sovereign, independent, viable and democratic Palestinian state on all of the territories occupied by Israel in 1967, with East Jerusalem as its capital, can a just peace be achieved.
The Initiative calls for the implementation of relevant United Nations resolutions requiring the withdrawal of the Israeli army from the West Bank and Gaza and safeguarding the internationally recognized right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homeland."
The PNI defines this as collective Palestinian goals but sees as its own role to democratize and unite the Palestinian movement, with the focus on the Palestinian National Authority (PNA). It has campaigned extensively for democratic reform within the PNA and advocates a national emergency government encompassing all factions (including the islamist Hamas) as a means of stopping autocracy and lawlessness in Palestinian politics. This is in part motivated by the desire for democracy and in part by the inefficiency and self-destructive tendencies of the Palestinian factional system.
The PNI demands the proclamation of a single political direction, to be determined democratically, and a single policy for achieving these goals. The PNI itself believes that the methods used should be based on a reversion of what it refers to as the "militarization" of the intifada and a continued struggle by peaceful means. It has no armed wing and does not use nor advocate violence, although it states that it supports in principle a right of resistance to occupation.
Supporter base and leaders
The PNI is dominated by secular intellectuals, some of them former members of the left-wing Palestinian People's Party. It is strongly based in civil society organizations and NGOs operating in the Palestinian Territories and has extensive connections with foreign aid and support groups. Its lack of a role within the PLO and in the PNA has greatly reduced its visibility to ordinary Palestinians.
The Initiative is led by a General Secretary, with Mustafa Barghouti occupying that post since its founding.
Mustafa Barghouti campaigned on a platform of democratization as the PNI's candidate in the 9 January 2005 Palestinian presidential elections, and in the absence of a Hamas candidate (due to the Hamas' policy of boycotting all PNA institutions) quickly became the leading opponent to PLO chairman Mahmoud Abbas. Barghouti was also endorsed by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, after that group failed in its attempts to organize a single candidacy for all secular Palestinian factions outside Fatah.
During the campaign, Barghouti's fame snowballed after the international press picked up his name as the main opposition candidate. He was twice arrested by the Israel Defense Forces, suffering a broken knee in custody, and complained of discrimination by both the Abbas-run PNA and Israel, which he accused of covertly backing Abbas's candidacy. In the final results, he polled 19.48%, with Abbas gaining 62.52% and the remaining five candidates all coming in below 3.5%.
The PNI also ran, together with some like-minded independents under an umbrella list called Independent Palestine, in the Palestinian Legislative Council elections in January 2006. The Independent Palestine list netted about 2.7% of the votes, thereby garnering two seats on the Council, which will be filled by Mustafa Barghouti and Rawya Rashad Sa-eed al-Shawa.
Palestinian local elections
The PNI made minor gains in the first phase of the Palestinian local elections, in January 2005 after the presidential elections.
In the next stage of elections, conducted in May 2005, the PNI by itself or in coalitions won a majority in at least six localities, with a total 10% of the vote for candidates outside Fatah and Hamas.
In the third phase of the Palestinian local elections, held on the West Bank on 29 September, the PNI ran by itself or in coalitions in 18 out of 104 municipalities and won control over the local councils in 16 of these.
The fourth and last phase of the elections have been postponed until December.