SP in disputed areas and other territories (2) – The Palestinian National Authority

In 2003 the Constitution of Palestine was passed. This document regulated the internal affairs of the Palestinian National Authority. The constitution had been the subject of negotiation for years, but was eventually passed in the context of attempts to find a settlement to the conflict with Israel. In particular, it was, in effect (and as I understand it), part of the attempt to marginalise Yasser Arafat, who was seen by various parties as a stumbling block to peace. The creation of a semi-presidential system with a president and a prime minister was a deliberate attempt to try to reduce Arafat’s power over the system. He died in November 2004.

The constitution can be found here. Articles 67 and 75 clearly establish the government’s collective responsibility to the legislature. Article 45 establishes a president-parliamentary form of semi-presidentialism.

A really interesting situation in this context concerns the brief period of cohabitation following the victory of Hamas in the 2006 legislative election. In January 2005 Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) of Fatah was elected as president. In January 2006 Hamas gained an absolute majority in the legislative election. There was some talk of a coalition but Hamas formed a single-party government. Therefore, there was a period of cohabitation.

In effect, this situation did not last long. In June conflict in Gaza led to Hamas controlling that area, while it was expelled from government. President Abbas dissolved the government and assumed emergency powers.

From a parochial point of view, the question is whether the semi-presidential system was partly responsible for the civil war. My guess is that the causes of the conflict are already well overdetermined, but that the semi-presidential system did not help in any way.

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