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Abbas calls early Palestinian elections

2006-12-16

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called on early parliamentary and presidential elections but added efforts to form a unity government should continue. Abbas called for government that could lift Western sanctions on the Palestinian administration, "I have decided to call for presidential and parliamentary elections ... The crisis is getting worse," Abbas said in a speech, which was broadcast live., raising the stakes after days of internal violence that has renewed fears of civil war..
Hamas, the militant Islamist group that controls the Palestinian government, accused Abbas of launching a coup. "This is a real coup against the democratically elected government," senior Hamas lawmaker Mushir al-Masri told Reuters in the Gaza Strip.
A senior Abbas aide, Saeb Erakat, said elections could not be held before the middle of next year for legal and technical reasons. He said Abbas first had to issue a presidential decree to provide a framework for the early polls. After that, voter rolls would need some 90 days to be updated.
Abbas had earlier in his speech called for a political solution to resolve the crisis but made clear he had the right to sack the government. Internal tensions are at their worst in a decade after months of talks between Hamas and Abbas‘ Fatah movement on forging a unity government foundered. "The crisis is getting worse," Abbas said in his speech, but vowed to ensure that civil war did not break out. Abbas added that he had the authority to dismiss the government. "This is a constitutional right. I can do it whenever I want," Abbas said.
The Palestinian basic law, which acts as a constitution, has no provision for calling early elections. Fatah officials say Abbas can do so by issuing a presidential decree. Hamas says that would be illegal.


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