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Palestinian Israeli Balad Party appoints new leader for upcoming elections

The Joint List parties will compete in March's Knesset elections [Getty]

Date of publication: 25 January, 2021

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Sami Abu Shehadeh won the leadership primary race to front the Balad Party.

One of Israel's leading Palestinian parties has appointed Sami Abu Shehadeh as new leader ahead of upcoming elections, following voting among committee members.

The Balad Party, a powerful faction within the Israel's Palestinian-majority Joint List, elected Abu Shehadeh from Jaffa to replace current leader Mtanes Shehadeh, who has headed the party for the last three elections.

Abu Shahadeh announced his plans to run for the party leadership three-weeks-ago, with 230 of the 397 committee members backing the 45-year-old.

"Balad is founded on democratic principles, justice and equality, all the while refusing to give up on our political line and values as an Arab minority," said Abu Shahadeh after the vote, according to Haaretz.

"Thank you for everyone who voted for me out of faith that I will lead our political and parliamentary actions accordingly."

The Israeli daily said that Abu Shahadeh is popular among younger Balad supporters due to his socially liberal views and his appointment should have an impact on the Joint List's upcoming election battle.

Heba Yazbak and Knesset member Juma Azbarga won second and third place respectively in the leadership primary.

The Joint List is a coalition of four Palestinian Israeli parties, including Balad, Hadash, Ta'al and the United Arab List, which has been embroiled in divisions and could lead to its collapse before the upcoming March election, according to some commentators.

Mansour Abbas, leader of the United Arab List faction, has been criticised for his perceived closeness to the ruling Likud and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Nentanyahu has attempted to woo Palestinian Israeli voters despite his past "racist" comments about Arab citizens.

Joint List leaders gathered on Sunday, according to Arab 48, with the first meeting identifying the main differences among the parties and a second session expected to take place on Tuesday.

Joint List represents parties with varying ideologies, ranging from Islamist to pan-Arab nationalist and socialist factions.

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