Hamas overturns pro-Abbas legislation

Vote indicates confrontational approach to Fatah, lowers chances for coalition.

hamas parliament 298.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
hamas parliament 298.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
The new Hamas-controlled parliament on Monday voted in favor of cutting the powers of Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, triggering a major confrontation with Abbas's Fatah party. Tayeb Abdel Rahim, a senior aide to Abbas, accused Hamas of trying to stage a coup against the PA chairman. "Hamas is trying to change the regime in Palestine," he said. "We urge Hamas to reconsider its tactics which jeopardize national unity." The crisis, the worst between the two Hamas and Fatah since the Islamic movement scored a landslide victory in last January's parliamentary election, erupted when the Palestinian Legislative Council [PLC], which held a session here and in Gaza City through videophone, decided to cancel a number of legislations taken by the previous council after the parliamentary election. Angry Fatah legislators in Gaza City stormed out of the chamber in protest upon learning that the council was about to cancel the legislations. Later, dozens of Fatah gunmen marched toward the PLC building in Gaza City, firing into the air and calling on their party not to join a Hamas-led cabinet. Azzam al-Ahmed, head of the Fatah bloc in parliament, said the Fatah legislators would not attend future meetings until Hamas respects the rule of law. "Hamas does not want to resolve this crisis," he said. "We have been trying to negotiate with them, but they don't want to listen. They only want to impose their will on everyone. This is undemocratic." Earlier, Ahmed was nearly expelled from the session following a heated verbal exchange with PLC Speaker Aziz Dweik. Ahmed and most of the Fatah legislators rejected Dweik's decision to hold a vote on the legislations that were passed by the previous council. The confrontation reached its peak when Dweik ordered PLC employees to disconnect Ahmed's microphone. In response, Ahmed and other Fatah legislators accused the speaker of adopting "dictatorial tactics and intimidation." Dweik also managed to embarrass many of the secular Fatah legislators when he announced that the session would be adjourned for noon prayers. It was the first practice of its kind since the council was established in 1996. Fatah legislator Issa Karake said his party would file a petition with the Palestinian Supreme Court to demand the cancellation of Monday's voting. "Hamas has violated all the laws and regulations," he complained. "Hamas is using the logic of domination and is trying to stage a coup against President Abbas." Hamas leader and legislator Mahmoud Zahar accused Fatah representatives of trying to foil the session to create the impression that Hamas is unable to normal hold council sessions. "Some people are trying to thwart the session to make people believe that we are not able to run the sessions, but I tell them that we are able to do so," he said. The controversial 11th-hour legislations, dubbed by Hamas as illegal, empowered Abbas to revoke laws and even to dissolve the PLC. They also gave Abbas the authority to appoint a new, nine-judge constitutional court without seeking legislative approval. The court could also veto legislation deemed to violate the Basic Law, a forerunner to the Palestinian constitution. The court will also serve as an arbiter in the event of disputes between Abbas on the one hand and the Hamas-controlled cabinet and parliament on the other. Hamas legislators pointed out that the new court would consist of Fatah-affiliated judges who were most likely to rule in favor of Abbas. The judges' role could be significant because they would have sweeping powers to revoke any law approved by parliament. Another law that was canceled on Monday was one that changed the PLC's regulations so it would be possible to appoint a new secretary general from Fatah for the council to oversee the administrative management of the new parliament. The new secretary general, Ibrahim Khraisheh, was kicked out of his office last week by Dweik. In response, Fatah gunmen surrounded the PLC building in Ramallah and opened fire into the air.