A presidential election in Palestine will not take place until both Fatah and Hamas reach consensus—and Israel permits it—resulting in a deadlock with no clear path toward political reconciliation.  In a new question and answer guide, Nathan Brown offers an analysis of Palestinian law and the core disagreements between the Palestinian factions that cast new doubt on President Mahmud Abbas’s political future.

Hamas insists Abbas’s term expires in 2009, while Fatah points to 2010. While Abbas was elected in 2005 and the Palestinian Basic Law sets a four-year term for the presidency, parliament passed an election law in 2005 that calls for the parliament and president to be elected together. Parliament’s four year term expires in 2010.

Key Conclusions:

  • Elections cannot be held unless Palestinian government agencies cooperate. Hamas controls certain agencies in the Gaza Strip while Fatah controls them in the West Bank. 
  • Parliament is unlikely to pass legislation to clarify the issue. Hamas has a clear majority, but cannot muster a quorum as Israel holds many of its deputies. If parliament does pass legislation, Hamas lacks the votes to override the likely presidential veto.
  • There is little hope for judicial intervention in the dispute. The law creating a constitutional court itself remains in legal limbo, while Hamas will not accept a ruling from the High Court as legitimate.
  • Israeli attitudes towards Hamas’s participation in elections has hardened over the last two years. Holding elections without Israeli cooperation is difficult as they control east Jerusalem as well as some areas of the West Bank.
  • Hamas and Fatah argue different interpretations of what will happen when Abbas’s term expires. Hamas argues that the presidency passes on an interim basis to the parliamentary speaker, while Fatah holds that Abbas retains control until new elections are held.