The Palestinian President’s call for early elections has prompted accusations by the ruling Hamas that he is trying to stage a coup. Mahmoud Abbas said polls should be held at the earliest opportunity, but appeared to leave the door open to his rivals by saying that in the interim all efforts should be done to form a government of national unity.
The president’s announcement comes as interfactional violence reaches a climax sparking fears of a civil war. Broadcast live on Palestine TV, it was welcomed by Fatah supporters throughout the Palestinian territories. In Gaza, Fatah activists celebrated in the streets, firing into the air.
Abbas blames Hamas for the crisis, saying its refusal to meet international demands to recognise Israel and renounce violence has led to crippling sanctions from the West and internal political deadlock. Hamas called on supporters to take to the streets immediately to protest against early elections.
“The election, the parliamentary election, is against the law, and against the constitution,” said spokesman Fauzi Barhoum. “But the solution to all of our crisis is to make a national unity government,” he added. There is no provision for calling an early election under Palestinian law. Fatah officials say Abbas will have to issue a presidential decree which means no ballot is expected before the middle of next year.