Mahmoud Abbas consolidating ‘dictatorial rule’ over Palestinians, watchdog warns

Abbas dissolved the Palestinian legislature, reshaped PA institutions and shows no interest in holding new elections.

By TPS

Over the last three and a half years, Palestinian Authority (PA) head Mahmoud Abbas has made decisions and implemented fundamental changes in the Palestinian political system, essentially leading it toward a dictatorship.

The decisions merged, integrated, and replaced the PA institutions with those of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Fatah, which he leads.

Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) is warning that the cumulative goal of these decisions is to abolish completely the last remaining bits of democracy in the PA.

PMW explained that facing the reality that Abbas may be incapable of fulfilling his duties, and in an effort to guarantee that his Fatah party will continue to dominate the PA, he has fundamentally changed the Palestinian political system.

The first change Abbas made was to make structural changes in the PLO that grant him enhanced control. The Palestinian National Council (PNC) is the legislative institution of the PLO.

Due to its size and the geographical dispersion of its members, the PNC almost never convened. To facilitate his control over the PLO, in May 2018, Abbas ensured that the PNC transferred its powers to a much smaller and more easily dominated Palestinian Central Committee (PCC).

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The move would later be used, in February 2022, by Abbas to push through the PCC a decision ordering the PLO Executive Committee to reformulate the institutions of the PA.

In December 2018, Abbas made the second change when he dissolved the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), which functions as the PA parliament. The PA parliament, which has not functioned since 2006, is to a great extent, the embodiment of PA democracy. While Abbas has previously promised new elections within six months, no such elections ever materialized.

The dissolving of the parliament was followed in February 2019 by a subtle change. Since 2006, the introductory passages to legislation adopted by the PA had cited provisions in the PA “Basic Law” – seen as the PA’s constitution – as the source for legislative authority. After dissolving the parliament, Abbas decided to abandon the PA constitution as the source of executive power and replace it with the constitution of the PLO – a document drawn up solely by the PLO and for the PLO.

Since the decision to restructure the PLO organs, dissolve the PA parliament, and abandon the PA constitution were completed in 2018 to 2019, it is clear that by then, Abbas had already made the decision that no more general elections would ever be held in the PA, PMW noted.

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Calls for elections were forced on Abbas by the US and the EU who demanded that the Palestinian leadership renew its legitimacy. However, this was “merely a deceptive ploy, designed to hoodwink the international community and scapegoat Israel,” PMW pointed out.

Abbas made another toward his silent takeover of the PA in February 2022, when the newly empowered PCC adopted a decision ordering the PLO Executive Committee, also headed by Abbas, to reformulate the institutions of the PA

“By replacing the PA institutions with the PLO institutions, Abbas is trying to guarantee that general Palestinian elections will never take place again and that Fatah, that controls the PLO, will continue to rule whatever remains of the PA,” PMW warned.

“If Abbas’ plan materializes, the next Chairman of the PA will not be elected in open elections throughout the PA-controlled areas. Rather, the next head of the PLO will automatically declare himself to be the ‘President of the State of Palestine.’”

PMW further wrote that Abbas’ moves “should set off alarm bells for every country that donates aid to the Palestinians via the PA. While the donor countries would like to believe that they are providing aid to the Palestinian people, in reality, what they are doing is to sustain the PLO and entrench the Fatah hegemony.

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PMW added that “If the international community does not step in and demand that Abbas roll back his anti-democratic moves, the result will be to further entrench the dictatorial rule by Fatah over the PA-controlled areas in Judea and Samaria, while Hamas will continue to rule the Gaza Strip.”

On July 15, US President Joe Biden met with Abbas and stated that “now is the time to strengthen Palestinian institutions, to improve governance, transparency, and accountability. All of this work is critical. And it will help build a society that can support a successful, democratic future, and a future Palestinian state.

“While the aspirations of the US administration are clear, Abbas knows that any association between the PA and a ‘democratic future’ for the Palestinians or to ‘strengthen Palestinian institutions, to improve governance,’ is today, further than ever from being an achievable goal,” PMW concluded.