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.”