Palestinian Authority – Elections being discussed

There is a nice report from the BBC about the possibility of new elections in the Palestinian Authority.

President Mahmoud Abbas’s term expires in January 2009 and the legislature’s term is due to expire in January 2010. Technically, Fatah holds the presidency and Hamas controls the legislature. However, Hamas’s military control over the Gaza Strip complicates the situation considerably. There is a scenario in which the Palestinian Authority splits into two and the different territories are run separately.

Anyway, discussions between the two parties are taking place in Egypt. The Egyptian plan is a government of national unity and for elections then to take place. However, the discussions raise some classic semi-presidential issues. Hamas has opposed the idea of holding simultaneous presidential and parliamentary elections and want President Abbas to call an early presidential election. Obviously, Abbas refuses this scenario and it is highly likely that the presidential election will not go ahead in January 2009.

Both sides currently have some hold over power and neither is willing anything to risk giving up what they currently have. In other words, the semi-presidential system, rather than allowing for opposing parties to share power, satisfies neither side because neither has full power. In this context, the institutions themselves become a bargaining tool and the system destabilises.

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