Abbas calls a meeting he knows cannot be held

JERUSALEM: The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, convened the legislature Wednesday, but a Hamas boycott meant there was no quorum, which was precisely what Abbas wanted.

With Parliament unable to meet, he can extend the life of the emergency cabinet he named after Hamas took over Gaza.

Hamas said it boycotted the session because it was illegal. Salah al-Bardawil, a Hamas legislator, said in Gaza that convening the legislature “without arrangements with the biggest bloc and with the Israeli arrest of Hamas legislators was an attack on Palestinian legitimacy.”

The term of the emergency government, led by an independent economist, Salaam Fayyad, would expire next week, after 30 days. Some Palestinian legal authorities said that Abbas, although he had the power to fire the old government of Ismail Haniya of Hamas under the Palestinian Basic Law, had no power to name a new government without legislative approval.

Those who believe Abbas did have the power say that even an emergency government must be ratified by the legislature. But with at least 39 Hamas legislators from the West Bank in Israeli prisons without charges, and Hamas legislators boycotting the meeting, there was no quorum of the 132-member legislature. Even Fayyad did not show up.

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In the January 2006 election, Hamas won 74 seats and Fatah won 45, but with only about 35 Hamas legislators not in prison, Fatah would have a majority if a quorum were attained.

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