Palestinian MPs approve new electoral system

Published June 18th 2005 in Times of Oman
Deputies cleared the way on Saturday for the holding of legislative elections when they approved proposals by Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas for a new electoral system.

The speaker of parliament said he now expected fresh elections to be held early next year, although a final decision on a date will be made by Abbas.

Differences over the voting system had led to the postponement of elections earlier this month which had been slated to take place on July 17.

But the parliament in Ramallah decided in a 43-14 vote Saturday to back the new electoral law, which will see the number of deputies increase from 88 to 132. Half the deputies will be elected by proportional representation and the other half by constituencies.

MPs had previously approved a new system to increase the number of MPs, but with two-thirds continuing to be elected by constituencies with the remainder by proportional representation.

Abbas vetoed the law, partly because he had previously assured the radical Islamist movement Hamas that the new chamber would be elected on a 50-50 split.

Parliament speaker Rawhi Fattuh said it was not in the legislative council's remit to set the date for new elections.

"That is the job of Abu Mazen (Abbas) but I expect that the date for the new elections will be on January 20 next year," he told reporters.

The only previous legislative elections were held on January 20, 1996.

"We approved the law today for Abu Mazen," he added.

Initial reaction from Hamas was muted, with a spokesman saying it was important that Abbas move swiftly to give the law his final seal of approval and set a date.

"It is too early to make a judgement about this new law because Mahmud Abbas has not so far not decided on a timetable for holding elections," Sami Abu Zuhri told AFP from the movement's Gaza stronghold.