How to replace Abbas? Produce a vice president

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (C) and then-Security Adviser Mohammed Dahlan (R) attend a meeting with Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh in Gaza, Palestinian Territories, April 5, 2007

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Many Palestinians are concerned about the future of the Palestinian Authority in the absence of a stable political system and in light of the numerous Fatah leaders aspiring to assume the top seat in a post-President Mahmoud Abbas scenario.

Asaad Abd al-Rahman, a member of the PLO Executive Committee, told the Jordanian al-Ghad newspaper Oct. 11 that a “serious dialogue is currently underway” to appoint a vice president to prevent “many undesirable conflicts and slippery slopes.”

Possible candidates, Abd al-Rahman said, include Mohammed Dahlan, an Abbas rival who was dismissed as a Fatah official in 2011. He added, “Many believe that Dahlan is recommended by several Arab and regional parties, more than he is supported by Fatah and its institutions, particularly following the things that happened between him and Abbas and the entire Fatah Central Committee.”

Nasser al-Kidwa, a member of Fatah’s Central Committee and a close Dahlan associate, is also being mentioned “as a result of a consensus among aspiring and other influential figures within the Central Committee,” Abd al-Rahman said.

Mahmoud Aloul, a Central Committee member, also told Al-Monitor that the group is “examining the legal situation regarding the appointment of a vice president and the necessary amendments to the law.” He added, “The vice president does not have to be necessarily from the Fatah movement.”

Some believe the Fatah Central Committee is trying to circumvent the Palestinian Basic Law by creating the post of vice president during the current challenges to the political system, as the terms of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) and Abbas have expired.

The law does not provide for a vice presidential position. Article 37 of the 2003 Amended Basic Law stipulates that if the presidency is vacated, the PLC speaker assumes power for a maximum of 60 days, “during which free and direct elections to elect a new president shall take place in accordance with the Palestinian Election Law.” The current speaker is Aziz Duwaik, a Hamas official.

Article 34 stipulates, “The president of the Palestinian National Authority shall be elected in a general and direct election by the Palestinian people, in accordance with the Palestinian Election Law.”

Those who oppose creating a vice presidential position believe Abbas and other officials can’t legally choose the person who would assume the presidency after Abbas vacates the role. They say the next president must be elected by the Palestinian people.

Hassan Khreisheh, the PLC’s second deputy speaker, told Al-Monitor Abbas “does not have the right to choose a vice president.”

Khreisheh explained, “After President Yasser Arafat died, I was summoned to the presidential headquarters. I demanded that an emergency PLC session be held in the presence of Palestinian Chief Justice Zuhair al-Sourani. Back then, I was the first deputy speaker of the PLC. Rawhi Fattuh, then speaker of the PLC, took the oath to preside over the PA for 60 days, until a president is elected, and I became the speaker. Many amendments were added for the [2005 presidential] elections to be held, and Abbas won the elections. Another PLC session was held in the presence of the head of the Palestinian National Council of the Palestine Liberation Organization Salim Zanoun, and Sourani, during which Abbas took the presidential oath.”

Khreisheh now calls on Abbas to convene an emergency PLC session to form a new body through which a vice president will be selected. He added, “The Palestinians have become more aware and will not agree to be led by someone they did not elect. We have a parliamentary system of governance whereby we do not allow any violation.”

Fatah is seeking to arrange its internal affairs by holding its seventh conference, tentatively set for Nov. 29, to select the movement’s head, deputy head and members of the Central Committee and Revolutionary Council. Then, the highest PLO body, the Palestinian National Council (PNC), will meet to select the PLO’s new executive committee.

PNC member Mahmoud Ajrami told Al-Monitor, “There is a struggle for the post of vice president, and many figures think they are eligible for this post, such as Nasser al-Kidwa, Jibril Rajoub, Abbas Zaki and Mohammed Dahlan, who perceives himself as natural heir of the Fatah movement. Egypt, Jordan and the Gulf countries in particular are pushing forDahlan to succeed Abbas.”

On the legality of creating the post of vice president, Ajrami added, “Fatah does not have the right to monopolize the Palestinian political decision or infringe on the law. The issue is very complicated, in light of the PLC term expiration and PNC failing to meet.”

Alaa Abu-Taha, a professor of Palestinian law at al-Israa University, noted that while the law does not provide for a vice president, some people are demanding one “to prevent the constitutional vacuum [that would be] caused by the death of the president.”

On the legal impasse, Abu-Taha said, “One cannot say that the Palestinian situation today is governed by the Basic Law. There is a split and the president is facing a crisis of legitimacy, as his term has expired. Also, the Palestinian system is suffering from a structural crisis. I don’t think the problem of appointing a successor to Abbas will be resolved through legal and constitutional means.”

Palestinians still don’t know what will happen after Abbas’ departure, particularly since things are not going well inside Fatah, which leads the PA and PLO. Many fear that chaos could arise without a well-planned transition, especially considering the political and legal problems that have been ongoing since the 2007 internal Palestinian split.

(Source / 27.10.2016)


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