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(photo credit: AP [file])
Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday announced changes in the Palestinian election law aimed at bolstering his Fatah party against the rival Hamas group.
It was the latest step taken by Abbas meant to marginalize Hamas since the group violently seized control of the Gaza Strip in June.
Abbas has kicked Hamas out of the PA government and announced plans for new elections. No date for the vote has been set.
Under the new law, Palestinians will vote solely for party lists, while district voting will be eliminated. In the last legislative election in early 2006, half the seats were chosen on a national list and the other half by districts.
While the national voting appeared to be close, election officials said Hamas had won a large majority in the district races. Hamas apparently took advantage of divisions in Fatah; the long-ruling party fielded multiple candidates in many districts, splitting the Fatah vote.
In Gaza, Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said Abbas' decision is "illegal."
"Early parliamentary elections are rejected .. and any amendment to the law is also rejected," he said. "Hamas objects to this policy of monopolizing decision making and will not deal with its outcome."
Barhoum said only the parliament, which is controlled by Hamas, has authority to change election law. But Abbas said he now holds such authority since parliament is no longer functioning.