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Committee agrees to separate PLO, PA parliaments

Jan. 15, 2012 10:12 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 17, 2012 10:45 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Islamic Jihad leader Khalid al-Batsh said a PLO reform committee meeting in Amman on Sunday agreed to separate the PLO legislature from the PA parliament, in moves intended to make the organization more representative.

Palestinian Legislative Council members, elected in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, can no longer take positions in the PLO's Palestinian National Council, which was established to represent all Palestinians, including the Diaspora, according to al-Batsh.

Committee members agreed to elect members of the PNC by proportional representation, and separate the process from PLC elections, he said.

The number of PNC members was also agreed, he said, without elaborating.

The meeting comes amid calls from Palestinian youth to demand the enfranchisement of all Palestinians through direct elections to the PNC.

Palestinian democracy activists have been increasingly vocal about the lack of transparency surrounding the discussions, and met days earlier in cities across the world to discuss the matter.

They are asking for basic transparency such as a list of the current members of the PNC. They also want future discussions broadcast on live television so Palestinians can follow the talks and hold their leaders accountable.

Freedoms still pending

The Islamic Jihad leader also sits on the public freedoms committee established in the wake of the May 2011 reconciliation deal between Palestinian factions to end four years of bitter rivalry and divided governments in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Newspapers banned due to perceived rival-affiliations by the respective governments will begin distributing freely in the next two days, he said.

He added that the committee is continuing to press for the release of all prisoners in the West Bank and Gaza detained based on their political affiliation.

Al-Batsh told Ma'an last week the committee agreed to free political prisoners and end the newspaper bans on Sunday, saying the date would be the real test of both sides' will to end the rivalry and implement the deal.

Nearly eight months later, many of the key tenets of the reconciliation deal have yet to be implemented.
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