RAMALLAH, West Bank, (Reuters) – Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is planning to call early elections, seeing little point in further talks on a government to replace a Hamas-led coalition boycotted by the West, aides said on Saturday.
Abbas told senior Palestinian officials “he has gone a long way to form a unity government but he failed” because Hamas objected to join a coalition that met world demands to renounce violence and recognise Israel, an aide to Abbas told Reuters.
The aide said Abbas had told lawmakers and officials of the ruling Palestine Liberation Organisation’s Executive Committee he would announce in a speech later this week: “I find no alternative but to go back to the people and call early elections.”
“I am not closing the door on dialogue, but will personally not take part in it. I have done my part and I see no choice but to go back to the people,” Abbas was quoted to have said.
Top Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, who was also at the meeting, said: “My understanding from Abbas’ words today is that he is leaning towards calling for early presidential and parliamentary elections.”
Talks between Abbas’s Fatah movement and Hamas at forming a unity government broke down last month over the Islamist Hamas’s refusal to meet Western demands to recognise Israel.
Abbas announced talks over forming a unity government had reached a “dead end” after a dispute over Hamas’s demand to maintain control of the key finance and interior ministries.
A Hamas spokesman challenged Abbas’s authority to call a legislative poll and urged a resumption of talks for a new, joint government. “We will not allow any coup against this government,” Ismail Rudwan, the spokesman, said.
Izzat al-Rishq, a member of Hamas’s exiled leadership, said in Damascus Hamas did not mind new presidential elections to replace Abbas but opposed new parliamentary elections. The group defeated Fatah in January’s elections for the Palestinian parliament and formed a government in March. “Abbas closed the door on the talks for a unity government by ignoring agreed bases for the negotiations,” he said.
Two Palestinian parliamentary guards were wounded in an exchange of fire at the legislature’s building in the Gaza Strip in the latest incident of violence fuelled by growing chaos.
The violence erupted as 1,400 police and security officers protested against not receiving salaries for months because the Hamas-led government has neared bankruptcy due to a Western aid boycott aimed at pressing it to change policies toward Israel.