Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC)

In the Declaration of Principles of September 13, 1993 (see Oslo peace process), Israel and the PLO agree upon the setting up of an elected Council in the Palestinian autonomous territories. It gives legitimacy to the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), a democratic and representative base to the Palestinian autonomy. Its duration was meant not to exceed the transitional period which was supposed to last until 4 May 1999. However, following the outburst of the second Intifada and the Israeli military re-occupation of great parts of the Palestinian territories, elections have been postponed sine die (last proposed date was January 2003).

The Interim Agreement on the West Bank and Gaza Strip (Oslo II or Taba Agreement) agreed upon on September 28, 1995, specifies its form and capacities. According to it, the elected Council and its designatedexecutive arm, the Executive Authority (the PNA), have competences on civil matters(1) and responsibilities for internal security and public order in the Palestinian autonomous areas at different levels. All its acts are nevertheless subject to review by Israel.

This assembly is the emanation of the political choice of the inhabitants of the Palestinian autonomous territories from West Bank and Gaza. The inhabitants of East-Jerusalem were authorized to vote under certain conditions but not to run for the elections – they had therefore to move their official domicile to the West Bank or Gaza (see the case of Faisal Husseini).

The Palestinian Legislative Council – elected on January 20, 1996 – consists of 88 seats(2)(3) of which :

  • Fatah: 49(4) (5)
  • Independent Fatah affiliated: 15
  • Independent Islamic affiliated: 4(6)
  • Independent: 17
  • Other: 3(7)

The Legislative Council inaugurated its work on the 7th of March 1996. This day is celebrated in Palestine as the “Democracy Day”.

Ahmed Qurei was elected Speaker of the PLC during the first term and has been re-elected in the following terms. Under Palestinian law, if the President dies or becomes incapacitated, the speaker of the Legislative Council becomes head of the Palestinian Authority for an interim period until new elections are held.

The Palestinian Elections Law states that the Legislative Council is integrated in the already existing Palestinian National Council (CNP). By this mean, a formal link is maintained between the Palestinians living in the Palestinian territories and those, mainly refugees, living abroad (see also Palestinians).

A Draft Basic Law for the National Authority in the Transitional Period entered into force in July 2002 to provide a provisional constitutional framework for the Palestinian state until the peace process comes to its end and the Palestinian state is officially declared. The Law was drawn in 1997, but President Arafat only signed it in May 2002 after domestic and foreign pressure for political reforms. The Law defines the powers of the Palestinian Authority, provides for regular presidential elections and a system of political balances between the cabinet and the Parliament. This Law is to serve as basis for a constitution. A Palestinian Constitution Committee was endorsed with the task of drafting a text in November 1999 and Nabil Shaath was appointed its Chairman. The law, which covers matters such as public rights, freedoms, authorities separation, free economic law, justice, freedom protection and others, is expected to be approved by the PLC by 2003.

The PLC has no say in the negotiations process with Israel, neither in the discussions with donor countries, these roles being both played by the PLO.
(1) The Council has powers in such civil matters as economy, industry, direct taxation, agriculture, energy, justice, social welfare, education, health, culture, tourism, transport, telecommunications,…on condition of approval by the State of Israel and the Israeli military government. The Council has, however, no powers whatsoever in the areas of international relations or defense policies. Finally, the Council can’t issue any legislation having any effect on the Jewish settlements and their inhabitants.
(2) Five women are elected to the Council (3 Fatah and 2 independent whose Hanan Ashrawi).
(3) Some seats are reserved for religious minorities: six for the Christians and one for the Samaritans (a Jewish sect living mainly around Nablus). The six Christian seats were filled by 3 Fatah and 3 independent candidates; the elected Samaritan is an independent affiliated to Fatah.
(4) Including one « Fatah-Islam » seat.
(5) Among which Ahmed Qurei and Nabil Shaath.
(6) Three of them were elected in Gaza, one in Nablus.
(7) Fida (DFLP breakaway faction close to Fatah), the « Freedom and Independent Block », and the « Democratic Coalition » (run by Haidar Abdel Shafi).