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PLO extends Abbas, PLC terms

Dec. 16, 2009 2:50 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 18, 2009 12:32 P.M.)
Ramallah/Gaza – Ma’an – The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Central Council decided on Wednesday to extend President Mahmoud Abbas’ term until elections are held.

A official with the Palestinian People’s Party (PPP), Walid Al-Awad, told Ma’an over the phone, “The Central Council decided to extend the President Abbas’ term … and extended the term of the Legislative Council under the Palestinian Basic Law until elections are held.”

The council also reaffirmed that the “door is open” for Hamas to sign an Egyptian proposal for reconciliation. Hamas is not a part of the PLO.

Al-Awad said he urged Hamas to sign the proposal, which he said would pave the way for new elections.

The move was not unexpected. Hamas registering its complaint weeks before the announcement, saying the PLO did not have the authority to decide on constitutional matters.

On Monday Ismail Haniyeh, the Hamas member elected prime minister in 2006 and currently de facto prime minister in Gaza, said “any decision that contradicts the constitution and contradicts the will of the people, will not be binding."

Meetings of Fatah and PLO bodies this week also indicated that Abbas would be asked to stay on as President until a political solution is found.

On Tuesday, Abbas told the Fatah Central Committee he would not "make any surprise decisions" about whether or not to run for reelection in the next Palestinian vote, sources said. The committee reportedly took the comments as a sign that Abbas would not resign before elections are held.

Abbas was also quoted as telling the party's highest governing body that "there remain steps I can take, but I will discuss them at a later date."

Earlier Tuesday, at a PLO meeting in Ramallah, Salim Az-Za’noun, head of the Palestinian National Council, said "we do not see a constitutional void threatening our political system. Here, we renew our invitation for Hamas to change its position on the Egyptian proposal in order to reach reconciliation, end the division, enable our people to have their right to vote, and put an end to the suffering caused by the coup.”

An election Abbas himself scheduled for January was called off when the Palestine Central Elections Commission said it would be unable to organize a vote in Gaza, where the Hamas government would not allow it.

Hamas took over the Gaza Strip in June 2007 after winning parliamentary elections the previous year. The takeover compelled Abbas to dissolve a unity government.

According to Palestinian Basic Law, Abbas’ term officially expired in January. A PLO decision extended his mandate, but Hamas and other dissenters contested the legitimacy of the move.

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