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Palestinian president seeks election law amendments weakening Hamas

[JURIST] Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas [BBC profile] announced changes to Palestinian election law Sunday which could reduce the political power of Hamas [CFR backgrounder], the rival to Abbas's Fatah [party website] party that scored major victories in last year's parliamentary elections and led a new Palestinian cabinet before that was dismissed [JURIST report] by Abbas earlier this summer. The changes will end district-based voting, instead substituting general voting for candidates running on party lists. The former electoral structure allowed half the parliamentary seats to be chosen by districts. Hamas dominated many district votes last year while national voting was much closer.

A Hamas spokesman denounced the putative changes as "illegal", but Abbas insists he has power to make the amendments as the Palestinian Legislative Council [official website, in Arabic], which generally has that power, is not sitting and the previous government has been dissolved and an "emergency" government substituted. Hamas does not recognize the new government and continues to exercise de facto power in Gaza [JURIST report] in the face of resistance from the Palestinian Attorney-General [JURIST report] and the local Fatah-appointed judiciary, while the new government named by Abbas controls the West Bank. AP has more.

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