Palestine to dissolve Legislative Council and hold elections in six months

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas prays at the start of a meeting in Ramallah, in the West Bank on Sunday. (Reuters)
Updated 24 December 2018

Palestine to dissolve Legislative Council and hold elections in six months

  • ‘The pronouncement of the Palestinian constitutional court is a political decision not a legal one’

AMMAN: President Mahmoud Abbas told Palestinian leaders on Saturday in Ramallah “that a decree has been issued by the Palestinian Constitutional Court dissolving the Palestine Legislative Council,” the official Wafa news agency said. 

Abbas “is committed to the Court’s decree, which also calls for holding legislative elections in six months,” it said.

Secretary General of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), Saeb Erekat, said on Sunday that the recent Constitutional Court’s decision that dissolved the Palestine Legislative Council goes hand in hand with efforts of transition from the period of the Palestinian Authority to the State of Palestine period.

But he went one step further than Abbas calling for presidential elections as well. Wafa news agency reported that Erekat called for “holding general elections for a constituent assembly of the State of Palestine, as well as presidential elections.”

Anis F. Kassim, editor of the Palestine Yearbook of International Law, told Arab News that the pronouncement of the Palestinian Constitutional Court is a political decision not a legal one. “It reflects a political move aimed at supporting the aspiration of President Abbas.” Kassim says that Palestinian leadership “has lost it way” by pushing for such a decision reflects “the rule by law rather than the rule of law.”

Majed Arruri, director of the Istiklal Institute for the Independence of the Judiciary and the Rule of Law based in Ramallah, told Arab News that the Constitutional Court’s decision has nothing to do with the Palestinian Basic Law. 

According to Arruri the decision is a clever one because those who were behind it are only interested in the dissolving of the dormant Palestinian Legislative Council and not necessarily in holding elections in six months. Palestine has no constitution and has been run since the 1993 Oslo Accords by the 1995 Basic Law which has been amended a number of times. The Basic Law stipulates that if the president is unable to carry out his duty then the speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council will take over for 60 days until presidential elections take place. The last speaker of the PLC, Aziz Dweik supports the Hamas movement, Abbas’s Fatah’s movements current political opponent

A major problem with holding elections is the question of Gaza. The Islamic Hamas movement in Gaza issued a strong statement Sunday criticizing President Abbas. “The decision of (President Mahmoud) Abbas deepens the internal Palestinian division and destroys the Palestinian political system,” said Yehya Musa, a senior Hamas leader and member of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC).

Hazem Kawasmi, a Jerusalem resident, who runs the Palestinian Municipal Development and Lending Fund told Arab News that he is in favor of legislative elections “if Jerusalemites are allowed to participate.” In the 2006 elections Palestinians from Jerusalem participated both as candidates and as voters.

Khalil Abu Arafeh the former minister of Jerusalem affairs after the 2006 election victory of Hamas told Arab News that the decision of President Abbas will cause unity damage. Abu Arafeh also questions whether the court can rule on matters that have to do with elections. 

“It is not part of the mandate of the court to decide on elections and to set a time line for it. I believe that the decision by Mr. Mahmoud Abbas to dissolve the one institution that reflected the diversity of Palestinians is a reflection of a true crisis by the Palestinian Authority which is trying to negate any relations between Hamas and the West Bank as a forerunner to the separation of Gaza from the West Bank.”

Anees Seidan, head of Arab Affairs department in the PLO, told Arab News that the dissolving of the legislature is way overdue. “It is a healthy decision to revive parliamentary political life through the electoral process that will allow new blood to be pumped into Palestinian life.”

Jumblatt expresses concern over torture of Syrian refugees

Syrian children are pictured at a refugee camp in the village of Mhammara in the northern Lebanese Akkar region on March 9, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 19 March 2019

Jumblatt expresses concern over torture of Syrian refugees

  • UN official stresses ‘urgent need to ensure’ their ‘safe, voluntary and dignified return’
  • Some 215,000 Syrian students are currently enrolled in Lebanon's schools 

BEIRUT: Lebanese Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt has expressed concern about reports that Syrian refugees returning to their country from Lebanon face torture and murder.

This coincides with a debate in Lebanon about whether Syrian refugees should return without waiting for a political solution to the conflict in their country. 

UN Special Coordinator Jan Kubis stressed after meeting with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Monday the “urgent need to ensure the safe, voluntary and dignified return of Syrian refugees home, according to international humanitarian norms.” 

Kubis added: “The UN and the humanitarian community will continue to facilitate these returns as much as possible. Another very important message was also to support the host communities here in Lebanon.”

Mireille Girard, representative of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), on Monday said: “The reconstruction process in Syria may not be enough to attract refugees to return. We are working to identify the reasons that will help them to return.”

She added: “The arrival of aid to the refugees is an element of trust that helps them to return. Their dignity and peaceful living must be ensured.”

Social Affairs Minister Richard Kouyoumdjian said the Lebanese General Security “issued lists containing the names of refugees wishing to return to their homes, but the Syrian regime accepted only about 20 percent of them.”

He added: “The solution is to call on the international community to put pressure on Russia, so that Moscow can exert pressure on (Syrian President) Bashar Assad’s regime to show goodwill and invite Syrian refugees to return to their land without conditions, procedures, obstacles and laws that steal property and land from them.”

Lebanese Education Minister Akram Chehayeb said: “The problem is not reconstruction and infrastructure, nor the economic and social situation. The main obstacle is the climate of fear and injustice in Syria.”

He added: “There are 215,000 Syrian students enrolled in public education in Lebanon, 60,000 in private education, and there are informal education programs for those who have not yet attended school to accommodate all children under the age of 18.” 

Chehayeb said: “As long as the displacement crisis continues, and as long as the (Assad) regime’s decision to prevent the (refugees’) return stands … work must continue to absorb the children of displaced Syrians who are outside education to protect Lebanon today and Syria in the future.”