Palestinian parliament deputy speaker Ahmed Bahar of Hamas speaks during the Palestinian National Popular Conference in Gaza City April 29, 2018. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem
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The top-tier leadership group of the Palestine Liberation Organization, with an average age of 70, is up for election for the first time in over two decades, when hundreds of delegates attend a West Bank convention this week.Abbas supporters portray the meeting of the PLO parliament as a closing of ranks behind Abbas.The PLO was founded in the mid-1960s as an umbrella for Palestinian factions. It was dominated by the Fatah movement, now headed by Abbas. On paper, the PLO remained the "sole legitimate representative" of all Palestinians, recognized by more than 100 countries. Meanwhile, Fatah steadily lost ground to Hamas, founded in the late 1980s. Hamas won Palestinian parliamentary elections in 2006 and drove Abbas loyalists from Gaza a year later. Today, the PLO is widely seen as an empty shell, but remains relevant as a political umbrella that could be revived. Even Hamas wants to join, but Abbas has balked, fearing another takeover.The battle over who will eventually replace Abbas is likely to be fought in Fatah, not in the PLO Executive Committee.
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