Hamas says Palestinian parliament to remain until new elections

Gaza City  - Hamas said Tuesday that the current Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) in which it has a majority of seats would continue to exist until new elections can be held, despite its four-year term running out on January 24.

Ahmed Bahar, the council's deputy speaker for Hamas, told a news conference in Gaza City his movement rejected a proposal to merge the parliament with the Palestinian Central Council of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).

"The Legislative Council (PLC) will exist and act until new presidential and legislative elections are held in the Palestinian territories," said Bahar, in an announcement unlikely to be accepted by Hamas' main rival, the Fatah party of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Hamas unexpectedly beat Fatah in January 25, 2006 legislative elections, and occupies 74 out of 132 seats.

Abbas last month issued a presidential decree announcing new elections on January 24, but when Hamas announced it would not cooperate and allow voting to take place in the Gaza Strip under its control, the Palestinian Central Elections Commission announced the elections will not be held on their legal date.

Abbas' West Bank-based administration is unlikely to accept the legality of the current, Hamas-dominated PLC when its term expires in January.

In practice, the PLC has been unable to convene since Israel arrested more than 40 Hamas lawmakers in the West Bank in the summer of 2006, in a couter-step to the capture of an Israeli soldier held in Gaza by the radical Islamist movement, and also following Hamas' takeover of the coastal enclave in June 2007.

According to the Palestinian constitution, the term of the PLC should end on January 24, 2010.

The PLO's Central Council (PCC) said on Sunday that if the elections cannot be held on January 24, it would recommend merging the competences of the PLC and the PCC to avoid a political and a constitutional vacuum.

But the PLO institution is dominated by Fatah and Hamas regards this a bid to strip it off its powers.

"We will continue to exist until presidential and legislative elections are held," said Bahar, adding that no elections could be held until the rivalling Palestinian camps reached a reconciliation deal. (dpa)

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