Abbas says he'll call elections `very soon'

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum says Hamas opposes holding elections before working out differences with Fatah.

Abbas nazi 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
Abbas nazi 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Tuesday he'll call general elections "very soon," signaling that he's ready for a new showdown with Hamas. Abbas's comments, his clearest yet on elections, come at a time of growing animosity between the rivals. Hamas, which wrested control of Gaza from Abbas 18 months ago, contends that his term as president ends January 8. Abbas initially said he has another year, but polls indicate most Palestinians disagree with him. A call for elections appear to be the only way for Abbas to retain his legitimacy. However, it remains unclear whether he actually intends to hold them, or just plans to call for a vote as a tactical move, with the expectation that Hamas would refuse to go along. Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said Tuesday that Hamas opposes holding elections before the rivals have worked out their differences. Hamas could block elections in Gaza, and it's not clear whether Abbas would agree to hold elections only in the West Bank since that would deepen the split between the territories. "I don't think elections in the West Bank only are an option," said Abbas aide Saeb Erekat, adding that he is expressing his personal view. Still, Abbas was moving ahead. On Tuesday, after meeting with a former Russian prime minister, he said that "we will call for parliamentary and presidential elections soon, very soon, in the West Bank and Gaza." On Monday, he met with the heads of the Palestinian Central Election Commission and is to consult with them again next week. The commission is to present possible dates for elections. Palestinian officials said they expect Abbas to announce a date before the end of the month. After such an announcement, elections could be held 90 days later, at the earliest.