Saud Abu Ramadan, Emad Drimly
February 8, 2012 - 1:00am

RAMALLAH, Feb. 7 (Xinhua) -- A legal controversy over the posts of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas rose on Tuesday, one day after he agreed in Qatar with Islamic Hamas movement's chief Khaled Meshaal that Abbas will form and lead a unified transitional government.

The sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Xinhua that if Abbas as president of the Palestinian National Authority ( PNA) also becomes the prime minister of the Palestinian government, "there would be doubts on whether he will be able to run in the upcoming presidential elections or not."

The sources said that Abbas' Fatah party still sticks to the idea that Abbas has to run for the presidential post in the upcoming elections. If Abbas now becomes the prime minister of the new transitional government, he won't be able to run for the president, while Fatah doesn't have another alternative.

However, Abbas Zaki, member of Fatah Central Committee, told Xinhua that the question of whether President Abbas will race in the presidential elections "is not decided by Abbas himself, but decided by Fatah movement, its central committee and other councils and institutions."

Asked about if Abbas assuming both roles of the PNA president and the new government's prime minister contradicts with the Palestinian law, Zaki said that the basic fact in this issue "is the accordance." The new government will be temporary and will prepare for holding the general Palestinian elections.

"Once there is a national consensus and accordance that serve the homeland interest, then there will be other interpretations for the Palestinian law and we will be able to find legal exits if the whole issue gets the approval of a majority and a consensus," said Zaki.

According to Doha declaration made in Qatar on Monday, Meshaal and Abbas agreed to form an independent, unified transitional government of technocrats ministers, to be headed by Abbas. The transitional government's mission is to prepare for holding elections and to reconstruct the Gaza Strip.

Abbas' Fatah Party and Meshaal's Hamas movement signed on an Egypt-brokered reconciliation pact in Cairo last May. The implementation of the pact was obstructed due to differences between the two rival groups on who will be the prime minister of the new government.

Although Abbas had previously announced that he did not intend to race again for the PNA President, his Fatah Party announced that Abbas will be its sole candidate for a second round of presidency. However, Zaki said that Abbas never wanted to be the PNA prime minister of the new government.

"Qatar pressured on Abbas to accept its proposal and Hamas movement welcomed the proposal and accepted it," Zaki said, adding "this was the only solution to get out of the impasse and hurry up in implementing the reconciliation agreement signed in May last year."

It is the first time ever, since 2003, that the president of the PNA becomes the prime minister of the government. Before 2003, when later leader Yasser Arafat was alive, the president of the PNA can assume both posts, but the law was then amended when the first ever Palestinian government was formed.

Asked if there is a possibility that Fatah asks Hamas to accept the proposal and overcome the legal violation of the Palestinian law and accept Abbas as the prime minister, Zaki replied that "We Fatah have a strategic decision to make unity with Hamas and close the era of division."

Meanwhile, Hamas lawmaker Ismail al-Ashqar, chief of the legal committee in the Palestinian parliament, said that designating Abbas to form a new government and lead it "is a violation of the Palestinian basic law."

"Instead of being the president (of PNA) and the prime minister at the same time, Abbas should devote his time to Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) executive committee because he is the PLO chairman," the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) leader Jamil Majdalawi said. "In all cases, there has to be a national consensus on everything."

However, Hassan al-Ouri, Abbas' legal advisor, said that in the basic Palestinian law, there is no contradiction between being the PNA president and the prime minister at the same time, adding " this doesn't need any constitutional amendments."

"I believe that there will be some technical problems that would obstruct the procedure, and this would include consultations with various factions which will take three weeks and the sworn-in ," said al-Ouri, adding "but all these obstacles are simple and can be easily resolved."

Ahmed al-Khaldi, professor of constitutional law in al-Najah university in the West Bank city of Nablus, asserted that being the PNA president and being nominated as a prime minister "is certainly contradicting with the law in accordance to the amendment made in 2003."

"If he violates the basic law and becomes prime minister of the new government, I don't think the law would allow him to run again as the president of the PNA in any elections," said al-Khaldi, adding that the law forbid combining between the two posts.

Meanwhile, Hassan Khreisheh, the second deputy of the parliament's speaker, put an end to the ongoing controversy when he called for resuming the sessions of the inoperative Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), which hadn't convened since Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in June 2007.

"The parliament should soon convene and make amendment to the basic Palestinian law, as the parliament is the only authority that can decide if President Abbas can be also the temporary prime minister of the new government or not," said Khreisheh.


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