Can a newly elected parliament repair the damage done to the Palestinian political system in its absence?

Agenda for political reform in Palestine

Critical Policy Brief, Number 1/2021 >>> See full text here

In mid-January 2021, president Abbas issued a decree calling for holding parliamentary elections on 22 May. It is not certain that any elections will take place in the near future and the goal of holding such elections, if they do take place, is almost certainly not the reform of the political system. Indeed, the goal most emphasized by Palestinian leaders, from Fatah and Hamas alike, is “the unification of the Palestinians people.” Nonetheless, it is essential to explore the implications of the revival of a parliamentary life, in the form of an elected PLC, on the prospects for reform even if elections do not take place soon. Once a Palestinian parliament is created, the political system will find it impossible to continue its current slide to authoritarianism.

Challenges: evidence of authoritarianism in the Palestinian Political System, 2007–2021: (See full text here)

Sources of Palestinian Authoritarianism: (See full text here)


This policy brief started with a skeptical view regarding the prospect of holding Palestinian legislative elections any time soon. However, the skepticism did not stop it from looking for ways in which elections, if they were held, can be capitalized on to serve the interests of Palestinian society, particularly in the area of political reforms. The previous analysis described the various indications of the slide to authoritarianism in the Palestinian political system and the four drivers of this slide. This analysis gave implicit support to the skeptical view by raising various indications questioning the seriousness of the PA leadership and the main Palestinian political parties in holding elections.

  • Amending the Basic Law: This measure will be the most difficult because it is not clear that the PLC will have the majority needed to approve the proposed amendments. Nonetheless, it will be valuable for the parliament to open a debate on the need to transform the Palestinian political system into a parliamentary one or at least to take steps to decrease the powers of the office of the president so as to remove any ambiguity about the ability of a president to issue legislation during the absence of the parliament and put in place greater protection for the immunity of its members. It should ensure that the president does not have the capacity to make top senior appointments in the public sector without explicit parliamentary approval, that the executive cannot take away jurisdiction belonging to the judiciary, that free speech is guaranteed, and that the space available to civil society is not shrunk and their activities curtailed or controlled. The amendments and clarifications must make it clear, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that a government that does not receive a parliamentary vote of confidence is illegitimate and its decisions invalid.
  • Rule by decrees: The Palestinian political system should not tolerate rule by decree. The PLC should review, amend, or reject in its first session all those laws issued by decree that have caused great damage to the principle of separation of powers or violated the terms of the Basic Law, including those affecting the judiciary, the constitutional court, the cybercrime law, and others.
  • Illegal governmental regulations: The PLC should also reject all those decisions and orders issued by the various PA governments since 2007 that violated the separation of powers and represented an attack on the jurisdiction of the parliament, such as the amendment introduced in 2015 to the regulations governing the functioning of the non-profit companies.

Critical Policy Brief, Number 1/2021

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