RAMALLAH, West Bank – Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday announced a delay in parliamentary elections, angering the militant group Hamas which is putting up parliamentary candidates for the first time.
In a public decree, Abbas said he had decided to postpone the July 17 poll to allow time to resolve a dispute over proposed reforms to the voting law.
“A date for the legislative election will be set in a future presidential decree after the completion of the necessary legal procedures and consultations (with factions) over an election law,” the announcement said.
Hamas, which is poised to make a strong showing in the vote, called the postponement a “violation of the Palestinian national interest” and of understandings it reached with Abbas to abide by a truce he declared with Israel in February.
“It is clear the decision to delay the poll was a result of narrow party considerations,” said Mushir al-Masri, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza, referring to Abbas’s mainstream Fatah faction.
Fatah officials said last week the parliamentary poll was likely to be put off because of discord within the party over reforms to the voting law sought by Abbas to give smaller factions like Hamas a better chance of gaining seats.
Abbas has encouraged Hamas, which is sworn to destroying the Jewish state, to enter mainstream politics in the hope of shoring up the fragile four-month-old ceasefire and broadening his popular mandate for peace talks with Israel.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has rejected Abbas’s efforts to bring militants into the political process as appeasement and said he will not resume talks on Palestinian statehood until Abbas disarms gunmen and dismantles their organizations…