Geneva Initiative Annexes
Geneva Initiative Annexes


PPC-GI Position Paper: The Palestinian Legislative Council Plays No Role

PPC-GI Position Paper: The Palestinian Legislative Council Plays No Role
Date: 06.06.07

More than fifteen months after the Palestinian Legislative Council election, the council is still completely inactive. No law has been enacted since the elections, and neither government nor any cabinet minister has submitted to questioning, despite the repeated request by the representatives to question the tenth government and ministers, particularly the Minister of Interior, all to no avail. A primary cause of the obstruction of the work of the PLC has been the exaggeration by Hamas and the international community concerning the meaning of Hamas receiving a majority of the seats (approx. 60% of seats). Hamas has dealt with this outcome as if this majority grants it a comprehensive mandate to change everything that has been achieved since the inception of the Palestinian National Authority and to reformulate the whole PLC and PNA based on a vision that suits Hamas’ interests and politics.

There is a major problem with this interpretation of the election results: In fact, Hamas only received 43% of votes nationwide, and it is only due to the electoral system and Fatah’s mistake of running multiple candidates in each district that Hamas was able to come up with a majority of seats in the PLC. According to the proportional system, the difference between Hamas and Fatah was one seat only, while in constituencies Hamas got 45 seats against 17 for Fatah.

The result of the PLC election was surprising to all, including Hamas. Hamas got the majority enabling it to form a government and rule, however, it has been unable to rule, both because Hamas has refused to recognize the commitments of the PNA and the grounds on which the PNA has been constructed, and, moreover, because of the obstacles that Israel and the international community have been hurling at the fledgling leadership.

With the arrest of Hamas PLC members in the West Bank, the other Palestinian political factions, including Fatah, have provided the Hamas government with a safety net based on the fact that any recruitment of the deficit in the PLC formation resulting from arrests would be considered immoral, as it would be a free service to the occupation.

After the formation of the national unity government, other political factions have tried to activate the PLC, through convening at the very least. Hamas has strongly resisted these attempts to bring the PLC to session, fearing that others may take this opportunity of imbalance to enact new laws or amendments to existing laws – Hamas is especially concerned that others may amend the election law, rendering voting 100% proportional. Hamas is now standing strongly against any such amendment by preventing the PLC from even convening by absence of required quorum (67 members).

To bypass the dilemma of having so many members arrested by Israel -- at present 45 members have been arrested, including 4 members from Fatah -- Hamas has tried to pass a new law enabling council members to vote by attorney. However, attempts to legalize this practice have been rejected as unconstitutional given the constitutional declaration that elected legislators cannot delegate powers of voting to anybody else.

The disability of the PLC is not likely to reach an end, even if the legislators who have been arrested were to be released. For the PLC to be truly viable, Fatah has to realize that it has no more the majority and shall reflect the same in acts and words. Hamas needs to release its stranglehold on the community and cease trying to reformulate the PLC, the PNA and the whole Palestinian political system, with the PLO on top, in accord with its individual doctrines. Attempts at such reformation challenge the very democratic basis on which the PNA has been built.

The Palestinian people direly need their democratic process to be left intact in order to maintain pluralism, a primary characteristic of the Palestinian way of life which has been a driving force in keeping the Palestinian cause alive this long.

One major lesson we have learned so far from the experience of the second PLC points to the necessity to agree on one reference and one strategic goal which defines the goals, rights, allies, stages, plans and appropriate tools to achieve progress in Palestinian society.

Without agreement on the strategic vision between the different factions, the PLC would remain inactive, as everybody must remember that the Palestinian people is still under occupation, and only law must govern the inter-Palestinian relations.