Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas issued an executive order on Thursday, amending the 2005 election law as a precursor to holding a municipal vote sooner than scheduled, the Bethlehem-based Ma’an news agency reported.
The minister of local governance, Khaled Qawasmi, told Voice of Palestine radio that Abbas’ decree would help the new government make a decision to hold elections “as soon as possible.” He added that the law would allow holding an election in more than one stage in case more than a day was needed.
Abbas’ move came one day after he reshuffled his cabinet, which will have seven new ministers. The previous government resigned amid an ongoing corruption probe and fiscal insolvency in February 2011.
Abbas previously tasked Prime Minister Salam Fayyad with forming a new government, but then put the brakes on in April after announced he had negotiated a reconciliation deal with Hamas politburo chief Khaled Mashaal.
The agreement, signed in Qatar, called for the creation of an interim cabinet of independent technocrats selected by the two factions, which would prepare for elections by May 2012. However, the deal revealed a growing schism between Mashaal's politburo-in-exile and the Hamas leadership in Gaza headed by Ismail Haniyeh, who effectively scuttled the deal.
Hamas blasted Abbas’ latest decision, calling it “unacceptable.” The group’s spokesman, Sami Abu Zuhri, told Ma’an the move is corrupt because it puts the premiership in charge of the election and violates the Doha agreement to reconcile the PA-controlled areas of Judea and Samaria, which are run by Abbas’ Fatah faction, and Gaza.
Abu Zuhri added that the PA has a poor track record of respecting the outcome of elections.
A spokesman for the Hamas government, Taher Nunu, called Fayyad's new government illegal according to the Palestinian Basic Law.
“Forming this government amounts to exporting the internal crisis of Fatah, and corruption scandals,” he said in a statement quoted by Ma’an and which slammed Abbas’ order for strengthening division.
After Abbas reshuffled the cabinet on Wednesday, Hamas reacted angrily and said the reshuffle underscored that the Fatah-Hamas unity deal was going nowhere.
“This strengthens the division,” Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhum said. “This government was built on corruption, and was not the choice of the Palestinian people and was not approved by the legislative council.”