PA may postpone parliament elections

Sources: Vote may be postponed indefinitely; Cabinet to resign next week.

The Palestinian Authority is contemplating postponing the parliamentary elections slated for next January because of the ongoing state of lawlessness and anarchy and growing tensions with Hamas, sources here said on Wednesday. Meanwhile, the PA cabinet headed by Ahmed Qurei is expected to resign next week amid increased criticism of its performance. Earlier this week, Palestinian legislators issued a two-week ultimatum to PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas to form a new cabinet or face a no-confidence motion in parliament. "I don't see how we can hold parliamentary elections under the current circumstances," one legislator told The Jerusalem Post. "Abu Mazen [Abbas] must first end the anarchy and violence." Another legislator quoted sources close to Abbas as saying that he was inclined to delay the vote "indefinitely" and declare a state of emergency in the wake of growing tensions between the PA and Hamas. One of the sources is reported to have expressed fear that Hamas's participation in the elections would jeopardize US and European financial aid to the Palestinians. "Abu Mazen is in an awkward situation," the legislator explained. "On the one hand, he's under pressure from Israel and the US to prevent Hamas from running in the elections. On the other hand, he will never be able to issue a ban on Hamas's participation because the Palestinian public won't accept it. That's why the best solution would be to postpone the elections until further notice." Hamas says it agreed, earlier this year, to abide by the unofficial truce with Israel after receiving promises from Abbas that the movement would be allowed to participate in the elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council. The agreement was reached in Cairo during talks between the PA and various Palestinian factions under the auspices of the Egyptian government. Hamas leaders have warned that preventing the movement from running in the elections would be regarded as a "violation" of the Cairo understandings a move that would prompt Hamas to resume its terror attacks on Israel. Mushir al-Masri, a spokesman for Hamas in the Gaza Strip, on Wednesday rejected any attempt to postpone the parliamentary elections under the pretext of security concerns. "Holding the elections on time has become a popular demand," he said. "Any attempt to delay the elections will be seen as a violation of earlier promises. Resolving the current crisis on the Palestinian arena can be achieved only through political partnership. Avoiding pluralism won't serve the interests of the Palestinians." The embattled Qurei, who is in Jordan for medical treatment, has come under fire for failing to put an end to anarchy in PA-ruled areas. On Monday, during a stormy session of the legislator in Gaza City, 43 legislators called for the formation of an interim cabinet that would run the affairs until the parliamentary elections. The session was dedicated to the continued anarchy, particularly in the Gaza Strip. During the meeting, dozens of PA policemen stormed the chamber, shooting into the air and further enraging the legislators. The policemen were demanding an iron-fist policy against Hamas following the killing of one of their colleagues during a shootout between Hamas gunmen and PA security forces in the Shati refugee camp. Many of the legislators complained that the rivalry and continued tensions between Abbas and Qurei were preventing much needed financial and security reforms. Abbas's aides expressed a sigh of relief following the threats made by the legislators and said it was time for Qurei to quit. "Abu Mazen is trying to change the situation, but Abu Ala [Qurei] is an obstacle," said one aide. "All what Abu Ala cares about is remaining in power. He wants to replace Abbas as chairman of the Palestinian Authority, but that will never happen."