Mahmoud Abbas is under increased pressure to appoint a deputy president of the Palestinian Authority.
Several Fatah leaders have recently called on the 78-yearold Abbas to name a deputy, arguing that such a move was necessary to avoid a power vacuum if and when he steps down.
The leaders said that the appointment of a deputy president was also necessary in the wake of Israeli “threats” against Abbas because of his “refusal to make concessions” at the negotiating table.
Abbas recently agreed to the formation of a committee of top Fatah officials to discuss the appointment of a deputy president, said Mahmoud al-Aloul, member of the Fatah Central Committee.
Aloul said that the committee was currently studying the legal aspects of the issue.
He pointed out that the appointment of a deputy president requires changing the Palestinian Basic law, the de facto constitution of the PA.
However, the Palestinian Legislative Council is the only body entitled to make any amendment or change to the Basic Law.
The current Basic Law states that, “If the office of the President of the National Authority becomes vacant, the Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council shall temporarily assume the powers and duties of the presidency for a period not to exceed 60 days, during which free and direct elections to elect a new president shall take place in accordance with the Palestinian Election Law.”
The current Speaker of the PLC is Abdel Aziz Dweik, a senior Hamas representative from Hebron.
The PLC has been effectively paralyzed since Hamas seized control over the Gaza Strip in 2007.
In the absence of the PLC, Abbas has resorted to issuing “presidential decrees” that have replaced laws supposed to be passed by the parliament.
Aloul said that the deputy president does not necessarily have to be from Fatah.
But another Fatah official in the West Bank insisted that the deputy president should be a member of Fatah. He said that since Abbas belonged to Fatah, it was only “natural that his deputy be from the same party.”
The official said that the decision to form a special committee to study the issue should be seen in the context of preparations for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.
Hassan Khraisheh, deputy Speaker of the PLC, called for a meeting of the parliament to amend the Basic Law so as to create the post of deputy president and define his duties.
Warning against any attempt to bypass the PLC, Khraisheh said, “The identity of the deputy president is not important.
What is more important is that we abide by the constitution.”
Some Palestinians said Sunday that Abbas was inclined to agree to the appointment of a deputy president in light of reports suggesting that his arch-rival, former Fatah strongman Mohamed Dahlan, may have his eyes set on the PA president’s post.
“Abbas wants to block Dahlan from making a comeback,’ said a Palestinian political analyst in Ramallah. “He wants to make sure that Dahlan would not play any role in the post-Abbas era.”
At the request of Abbas, Fatah expelled Dahlan from its ranks three years ago after accusing him of undermining the PA president and financial corruption. Dahlan has since been living in the United Arab Emirates.