RAMALLAH, West Bank, April 27 (Mohammed Assadi - Reuters) - Leading members of the dominant Palestinian movement Fateh are demanding more power in the Palestinian Authority cabinet of US-backed Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, Fatah officials said on Tuesday.
We are calling for a reshuffle of the key ministries, said Amin Maqboul, secretary general of Fateh's Revolutionary Council. He was speaking to Reuters after four days of closed-door meetings in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
The Council wants to turn the interior affairs, finance and foreign affairs portfolios currently held by Fayyad loyalists over to Fatah members, officials said.
Fateh has 11 seats in the 21-member caretaker cabinet led by Fayyad, a technocratic independent who has incurred the envy of many Fateh activists.
Fayyad was appointed by President Mahmoud Abbas at a time when the West was pressing for reform in what was widely seen as a corruption-riddled administration. He promoted a policy of transparency welcomed by Western aid donors.
Senior Fateh official Mahmoud al-Aloul said Abbas, who leads Fateh also wants a reshuffle and he has no objection to the Council's demands. But there was no immediate confirmation from the presidency.
Minister of Labour Ahmad Majdalani said Fayyad had already asked Abbas for cabinet changes to replace non-performing ministers. He is pressing ahead with an ambitious programme to build the institutions of the Palestinian state which he expects to complete in 2011.
There is a previous agreement between the president and the prime minister on the reshuffle, Majdalani told Reuters. He cannot continue with his work with the current staff.
A close confidant of Fayyad said the premier would not mind Fateh taking any post except finance, which he holds and which is off-limits.
They know that they cannot get the ministry of finance and Fayyad may quit if they insist on taking it. I don't think things will go that far, this source said.
Fayyad, a former World Bank economist, has a very small political power base. He has gained prominence for a pragmatic policies to improve the economy and the infrastructure of the occupied West Bank, and popularity for his grassroots approach.
Fateh argues that a reshuffle would improve the performance of the government, Aloul told Reuters.
Fateh dominated Palestinian politics for decades until the Islamist Hamas scored a surprise win in the 2006 parliamentary election and one year later kicked Fatah out of the Gaza Strip, which Hamas has controlled ever since. Abbas appointed Fayyad after the seizure of Gaza. But many in Fatah have been irked by Abbas's reliance on him.
Pressure for greater say in the caretaker government increased last August, after Fateh held its first congress in 20 years, bringing new members into the Revolutionary Council and Central Committee.