Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has officially called for new presidential and parliamentary elections, a dramatic challenge to Hamas that threatens to touch off a civil war. The Hamas government accused Abbas of carrying out a "coup" against the Palestinian people, who voted them into power 11 months ago. Hamas leaders, including FM Mahmoud Zahar, called on Abbas to resign.
Abbas' dramatic announcement — made after he despaired of persuading Hamas to form a coalition government with Fatah — further hardened the lines between the two political rivals, at a time when factional fighting threatens to escalate.
Abbas is taking a big political gamble by trying
to end his power struggle with Hamas through new balloting. The
balloting could be deprived of legitimacy if boycotted by Hamas.
Also, if Abbas does not run — he has said he would not seek another
term — Palestinian moderates would not have a strong candidate and
could easily lose the presidential vote.
Aides said the vote would be held as early as March, and that a date would be set within a week.
"We are not going to allow elections to take place,” said Zahar. "This is a real coup. He has never accepted this government. He has never sat in one government meeting. He has never invited one government minister to meet with foreign ministers."
Israeli government spokeswoman Miri Eisin said Israeli PM Ehud Olmert "respects Abu Mazen and hopes that he will have the capability to assert his leadership over the Palestinian people, and to bring about a government that will comply with the international community’s principles."