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In a rare protest, Palestinian attorneys decry ‘rule by decree’

JERUSALEM — Hundreds of Palestinian attorneys staged a rare public demonstration on Monday, July 25, in Ramallah against what they described as the Palestinian Authority’s “rule by decree,” denouncing PA leader Mahmoud Abbas for governing without a parliament, AFP reported.

Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah in 2020. (Flash90)

Since 2007, the Palestinian Legislative Council, which was established during the Oslo Peace Accords with Israel, has remained inactive, meaning that Abbas has presided over the Palestinian Authority without a functioning parliament for virtually the whole of his presidency.

In response, a new leadership of the Palestinian Bar Assn. has recently attempted to exert pressure on the PA to change the situation.

During Monday’s rally, Suheil Ashour, president of the association, said his organization would take a firm stance against legislation issued by PA presidential order that restricted Palestinian “rights and freedoms.”
“Our demand is either to stop their implementation now or to cancel” them, said Ashour.

The protesters, dressed in black, were stopped by PA riot police from advancing in the direction of PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh’s office.

“The legislative authority is absent in Palestine, and the judicial authority is completely marginalized,” said protester Farhan Abu Aisha, according to the report.

He accused Abbas of making decisions “under the cover of darkness.”

Over the last three-and-a-half years, structural changes have been made to PA institutions, eroding their power. These include transferring the power of the Palestinian National Council to the smaller Palestinian Central Committee (May, 2018); dissolving the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), which functions as the PA parliament (December, 2018); and abandoning the PA constitution as the source of executive power and replacing it with the constitution of the PLO (February, 2019).

These changes serve to transfer power from what should be independent institutions to the PLO and the ruling Fatah party, led by Abbas.

Observers, including Palestinian Media Watch, say that these moves entrench Abbas’ power, also evidenced by his failure to call for elections, despite calls from the US and EU.

Most recently, during his visit to the region, President Biden said, “Now is the time to strengthen Palestinian institutions, to improve governance, transparency and accountability.”

“By replacing the PA institutions with the PLO institutions, Abbas is trying to guarantee that general Palestinian elections will never take place again, and that Fatah, which controls the PLO, will continue to rule whatever remains of the PA,” Palestinian Media Watch said.

TPS contributed to this report.

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