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Palestinian emergency government unconstitutional: drafters

[JURIST] The constitutional scholars who drafted the interim Palestinian constitution spoke out against Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] Monday, saying that although Abbas had the right to dismiss former Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh [BBC profile], he acted against the constitution [Reuters report and statement] in June by appointing the new "emergency" government [BBC report] excluding Hamas [CFR backgrounder] without the legislature's approval and by suspending articles of the Basic Law [text]. Anis al-Qasem, leader of the constitutional drafting committee, told Reuters that the power given to the president was intentionally limited, reflecting a time when Abbas was a prime minister in a power struggle with the late president Yasser Arafat [BBC profile]. Al-Qasem also said that allowing the president to suspend articles of the constitution could lead to a dictatorship.

Another constitutional framer, Palestinian lawyer Eugene Cotran, told Reuters that presidential emergency decrees last for 30 days, but all actions under them must still comply with the constitution. Cotran added that he doesn't believe the fighting in the Gaza Strip [BBC backgrounder] which prompted Abbas to exclude the majority Hamas party from the government constitutes an emergency situation. A spokesman for Abbas's Fatah [official website] party told Palestine Radio that the state of emergency can be extended indefinitely, for as long as the Hamas "mutiny" continues. Several Middle Eastern constitutional experts expressed concern that western nations immediately embraced the emergency Fatah government as legitimate, despite what they see to be glaring constitutional concerns. As a result of the exclusion of Hamas from the government, the US and the European Union restored funding and diplomatic ties [BBC report] to the Palestinian Authority. Reuters has more.

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