"What Next? Newly Elected Palestinian Lawmakers Weigh In"

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Overview:

Final elections results released on 29 January 2006, showed that Hamas won 74 seats rather than 76, and the outgoing ruling Fateh party gained two seats, for a total of 45 seats in the 132-member Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC). Fateh’s gains came on both the national and the district level. The Palestinian Central Elections Committee (CEC) did not report any change in the number of seats won by the other four slates.

Although Hamas still enjoys a majority to form a government on its own, it is seeking to establish a coalition government. Will it succeed in doing so, or will it be forced to take on the burden alone? What are the next steps for the parties involved? Members of the newly-elected PLC weigh in.

Interview with Dr. Ziad Abu Amr
A candidate for Gaza City, independent of any party
Elected by a direct majority vote based on district voting precincts

Abu Amr received 55,748 votes as an independent candidate for the Gaza City district. In an interview with the Palestine Center, Abu Amr said he believes that Hamas’ attempts to secure partnerships in the upcoming government will depend on the terms of agreement and reference it can reach with the other parties. “Let’s not forget that the president of the Palestinian Authority is the leader of Fateh. It does not make sense for Fateh to categorically refuse participation in the government when the president of the Palestinian Authority and the chairman of the PLO Executive Committee, which constitutes the legal and political frame of reference for the Palestinian Authority, is a Fateh leader. I think they will have to think about this in a more realistic and political way. I understand the anger and the emotional dimension of this situation, but political life has to continue. At this point, Hamas needs others and I am sure it will make it easy for other parties, especially Fateh, to participate in the government.”

Abu Amr continued, “The next step is for the new legislative council and the new government to go ahead with work so there is no time wasted. Ultimately, all the relevant parties must reconcile themselves to this new political reality, even if that requires compromises from all these parties, including Hamas, Israel, the United States and Europe. There is no alternative.”

Interview with Dr. Saeb Erekat
A candidate for Jericho, representing Fateh
Elected by a direct majority vote based on district voting precincts

Erekat received 6,717 votes to win the Jericho seat, surpassing the 3,411 votes that Hamas’ candidate received.

In an interview with the Palestine Center, Erekat said, “I hope the international community will respect our democratic choice and at the same time I hope Hamas will act with the responsibility of accepting to be part of the international legitimacy, the Arab legitimacy and the Arab peace plan of 2002, and the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) obligations so we can preserve the Palestinian national interest. For Fateh it is not a question of ruling in or ruling out joining the new government. We have a program within Fateh that calls for a two-state solution and for negotiations and relations with the international community. Hamas’ program is different. A national unity government needs a program but we have two different programs. [Fateh is] calling on Hamas to accept being part of the international and Arab legality and to accept the PA’s obligations.”

Interview with Dr. Hanan Ashrawi
A candidate from the Third Way slate
Elected from the national list of competing slates

The Third Way slate received 2.4 percent of all valid ballots cast at the national level (23,862 total), giving it two seats in the PLC. Representation of the Third Way agenda is shared between Ashrawi and Salaam Fayyad, the former Minister of Finance in the Fateh-led government.

Ashrawi said Hamas may find it difficult to form a coalition. In an interview with the Palestine Center, Ashrawi noted that, “Hamas has openly said that they are interested in partnerships and that they do not want to have a monopoly over power. They need others; the question is who will enter into a partnership with Hamas. To enter a coalition you need to have a minimum understanding on political issues, social issues, security issues and ideas. Hamas wanted to try its hand so they should be given the chance. They won fair and square and they won a majority. But that majority should not be used just to change laws or legislate new ones, which they might do. They have said they want to reformulate Palestinian society. They say they have experience in building institutions like social welfare…so they should be able to form a government and build institutions.”

According to the PLC By-laws, a two-thirds majority (88 votes) is needed to amend articles of the Basic Law, the Palestinians’ temporary constitution. However, the introduction of new laws requires only a majority-plus-one vote, as does the defeat of a no-confidence vote brought against the government.

Women in the Legislature

Seventeen women are now part of the 132-member legislature (13 percent). Eight women were elected from Fateh’s national list, six from the Hamas slate, and three from the four remaining slates. Notably, all seventeen women ran as part of political slates. None of the female candidates that ran on district level ballots, which required direct votes for specific candidates, were elected.

National Lists: the Final Results

According to the CEC, Hamas’ Change and Reform slate of 59 candidates received 440,409 votes of the 990,873 valid votes cast on the national level, giving Hamas 29 seats. The slates were vying for a total of 66 seats, or half of the PLC, which were dedicated to candidates elected from national level ballots.

Fateh secured 410,554 votes, which translated into 28 of the 66 seats. The results indicate that Fateh lost in part because of the votes being cast at the district level–”that is, ballots that allowed direct voting for candidates rather than a party.

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) came in third with 42,101 votes (three seats), followed by the Alternative slate with 28, 973 votes (two seats), Mustafa Barghouthi’s Independent Palestine slate with 26,909 votes (two seats), and the Third Way slate with 23,862 votes (two seats).

A total of 1,042,424 ballots were cast on the national level. However, 29,864 were considered invalid and 21,687 ballots were returned as-is, indicating an abstention by voters.

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