In a move that Hamas officials called "immoral", the outgoing Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) members passed a series of last-minute laws that strengthen the powers of the chairman and makes it possible to revoke laws and even dissolve the new PLC, which will convene for the first time on Saturday.
"We are calling this a white coup d'etat," Dr. Mahmoud Ramahi, a newly-elected Hamas PLC member from Ramallah, told The Jerusalem Post
. "In Algeria they did a black coup d'etat when they used the military to overturn the results of the elections. In this law they gave Mahmoud Abbas the ability to dissolve the parliament through the judges he appoints."
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"This is immoral. The majority of the people who decided this today are people who lost in the elections. On January 25 the people elected others to replace them, so how can they on February 13 decide to make changes for the people?"
Hamas won 74 out of 132 seats in the recent PLC elections. Ramahi said he received on Sunday his certificate confirming that he is now officially a PLC member. However, during the last PLC session, the members, most of whom are from the defeated Fatah party, passed one law creating a constitutional court and another law giving the Palestinian chairman the right to appoint its nine judges without the approval of the PLC.
The result is that, if the Hamas-dominated PLC passes a law unacceptable to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, the issue will be brought to a constitutional court to decide.
Hamas PLC members fear that the court will automatically rule in favor of the chairman.
"Today's law means [Abbas] can appoint nine Fatah judges and, in the first disagreement between us [Hamas] and Mahmoud Abbas, they can decide not to pass the law and instead to dissolve the parliament," said Ramahi, a doctor of anesthesiologist, who graduated from the University of Rome. "This is the problem." One secular member of Fatah told the Post on condition of anonymity that the way in which the laws were passed was unacceptable, but he was relieved that it "prevented future conflicts between the legislature, the executive cabinet and the president" particularly regarding the "social agenda."
Many secular Muslim and non-Muslim Palestinians fear Hamas will turn the country into a Shari'a state - a state based on Islamic law. Hamas leaders have said they would not force people to be religious. However, they may make some changes to laws "in the spirit" of Islam.
If these two laws remain, any laws the PLC passes could be revoked by the newly formed constitutional court.
Hamas members will be consulting with Abbas, who they say promised that no laws would be made in this last session.
Ramahi said Hamas had no fear of a scenario in which the new constitutional court dissolved the PLC.
"If elections are held again we will get even more votes." Meanwhile, Hamas has until the February 23 to decide who will be the prime minister, but the name of Ismail Haniyeh, number one on the Hamas list, comes up repeatedly. Hamas has only determined that the individual must be from Hamas.
"Most people in Hamas want Abu-Abed [Ismail Haniyeh]," said Ramahi. "But we want to see first if Fatah wants something."