Abbas to Dissolve Parliament: Sources

By Mohamed el-Sawwaf

GAZA CITY- Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is planning to dissolve the Hamas-dominated parliament and call for early general elections that would only be confined to factions which are members at the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) to exclude Hamas, sources close to Abbas told IslamOnline.net on Monday, July 9.

"Abbas will dissolve parliament before July 13 when the authority granted to him by the Basic Law to declare emergency expires," the sources said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

Abbas sacked the Hamas-led unity government on June 14, declared emergency in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and formed an emergency government led by Salam Fayyad after Hamas seized control of Gaza following bloody clashes with Abbas’s Fatah movement.

The sources said Abbas, in dissolving parliament, wants to evade a necessary parliamentary approval for any political decision.

"Abbas argues that parliament in its current shape is paralyzed and unable to convene as one-third of its (majority) Hamas lawmakers, chiefly Speaker Aziz Al-Deweik, are in Israeli prisons," they added.

"Abbas argues that the Basic Law did not provide for what kind of action that should be taken if parliament was not able to meet the quorum to convene," the sources noted.

The 120-member legislature failed to meet on Thursday, July 5, because of failure to secure parliamentary quorum after Fatah MPs boycotted the session as well as the forced absence of one-third of Hamas lawmakers, who swept parliamentary elections in 2006.

Israel abducted nearly 40 Hamas MPs after resistance factions took hostage Israeli corporal Gilad Shalit in June of last year.

The Basic Law does not give Abbas the authority to dissolve parliament. The legislature can only be dissolved with the approval of two-thirds of the MPs.

Though entitled to sack the prime minister and declare emergency, Abbas cannot form an emergency government without parliamentary approval, according to the Basic Law.

The framers of the Palestinian code of laws told Reuters Sunday in an exclusive interview that Abbas had trampled on the Basic Law in a totalitarian manner when he appointed an emergency government to replace a Hamas-led unity cabinet without parliamentary approval and suspended articles in the constitution.

Article 79 stipulates "neither the prime minister nor any minister shall assume his office except after a vote of confidence" from the legislature.

The code’s framers said the Basic Law prescribes that Ismail Haniyeh’s dismissed unity cabinet remain the caretaker administration until Abbas secured parliamentary approval for a new government.

They said the lack of quorum is not an excuse for Abbas to act unilaterally.

Snap Polls

The sources said that Abbas would also call snap legislative and presidential elections to be confined to only factions which are members at the PLO.

Abbas would use the parliament dissolution as "a prelude to hold early legislative and presidential elections under the proportional representation system," said the sources.

"This means Hamas will be excluded from standing in the polls as the group is not a PLO member."

Fatah leader Isa Qaraqi had alluded that Abbas would call for a public referendum on dissolving parliament and holding early general elections based on the proportional representation system for PLO members.

"The current constitutional vacuum is leaving us with no other option but to resort to the PLO and the public to have their final say," he told a seminar in the West Bank city of Bethlehem.

"With a parliament unable to live up to its responsibilities, President Abbas, in his capacity as the democratically elected leader of the Palestinian Authority and the head of the PLO’s Executive Committee, is actually at the top of both the executive and legislative authorities," added Qaraqi.

He went on: "The president is the guardian of the constitution and all the actions he has taken recently are constitutional in such exceptional circumstances."

Hamas and Fatah leaders agreed in March to form a unity government following an historic power-sharing agreement brokered by Saudi Arabia, with the aim of ending months of bloody Fatah-Hamas political rivalry.

No less than 230 people have been killed in on-and-off fighting between the two sides since Hamas was elected to office.

Unconstitutional

But Hamas said that the dissolution of parliament by Abbas is unconstitutional.

"President Abbas cannot dissolve a democratically elected parliament or suspend its role in accordance with the Basic Law," Mohamed Madhun, the chief of Haniyeh’s court, told IOL.

If Abbas dissolved parliament, he would add to a "string of unconstitutional and illegal moves he made recently, added Madhun.

He said Abbas cannot act alone and take such unilateral steps that jeopardize national security.

Israel Radio said Sunday, July 8, that Abbas’s close aides asked Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert not to release the Hamas MPs abducted by Israeli soldiers.

They feared that the release of the Hamas lawmakers would help Hamas to secure the necessary quorum to convene the parliament and kill any move made by Abbas.

The radio quoted a senior source at Olmert’s office as saying that Abbas’s aides balked at meetings between Israeli officials and detained Hamas lawmakers in a bid to reach a prisoner swap deal to release Shalit.
 
(IslamOnline.net – July 10, 2007)

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