Palestinian president’s term has ended–maybe

Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority, was elected four years ago today. It was to be a four-year term.

As the Jerusalem Post notes:

Hamas officials said that as of Friday they would not recognize Abbas’s status as president of the PA.

But they also made it clear that they would not demand his resignation for now “because of the war” in the Gaza Strip.

When should an election be held?

PA Prime Minister Salaam Fayad told reporters on Thursday that the law calls for holding presidential and legislative elections simultaneously.

That could be so only if the law in question amended the Basic Law and extended the president’s term (or allowed for an interim unelected president, as implied below). The legislative term is also four years, but the current terms should be nonconcurrent, given that the Legislative Council was last elected in January, 2006.

Al Jazeera, last October, offered some further consideration of the legal question:

Hamas, citing a Palestinian law, said one of its own leaders must fill the top post after Abbas’s tenure officially expires on January 8. […]

The Basic Law, a forerunner to a Palestinian constitution, says that both president and parliament are elected to four-year terms.

But a loophole in the law, which Fatah is relying on, suggests that Abbas’s term could be extended another year if it were deemed to be in the “national interest”.

J-Post again:

Hamas and some Palestinian legal experts have openly challenged Abbas’s right to remain in power after the expiration of his term. […]

According to the Palestinian constitution, the speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council is supposed to serve as acting PA president for a period of 60 days, after which presidential elections are to be held.

If the law indeed stipulates this procedure, then it would be Hamas that is entitled to hold the interim presidency as of today, given that it has the majority of seats in the Legislative Council. “National interest” loopholes are always convenient, especially now, when the two parties have other more pressing concerns.

The J-Post claims that “the military operation seems to have escalated tensions between the two parties, particularly following accusations by Hamas that Abbas and Fatah were “colluding” with Israel.” Driving a wedge between the two main Palestinian parties would no doubt be one of the Israeli government’s political aims in the current war. For now, at least, Abbas remains president under quite dubious legal grounds.

2 thoughts on “Palestinian president’s term has ended–maybe

  1. On 24 November last the Palestinian Central Council, which is an offshoot of the Palestinian National Council and which itself is the legislative body of the PLO, elected Mahmoud Abbas as ‘President of the Palestinian State’. While this does not have any relation to the legal situation under the Constitution and while the decision was derided by Hamas, it was clearly made in the context of the impending end of the presidential term. I throw this is in just for information. There are a couple of posts on my blog about the situation in the PA in recent times ( and the archive function there is now working again!


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