الرئيسية / Researches / The Palestinian Political System: An analysis of the  Modified Palestine Basic Law 2003 and the Modified Elections Law 2005

The Palestinian Political System: An analysis of the  Modified Palestine Basic Law 2003 and the Modified Elections Law 2005

Pre-Basic Law Constitutional History

During the British Mandate, documents were issued recognizing Palestine’s existence as a legal entity. All real authority was in the hands of the British High Commissioner. In 1948, the Palestinian National Council (PNC) issued a very sketchy provisional constitutional declaration, which never came into effect. During its period of control, Egypt issued constitutional documents for the Gaza Strip in 1955 and 1962. After annexing the West Bank, Jordan’s 1952 constitution applied to that area. When Israel began its occupation in 1967, it issued proclamations assigning constitutional authority to the Israeli military governor. None of these documents would be very useful to the drafters of the Basic Law.

On 15 November 1988, the PNC of the PLO issued a Declaration of Independence, dedicated to a democratic parliamentary system, freedom of expression, equality, a constitution, the rule of law, and an independent judiciary. These sentiments would be elaborated upon as a result of the Oslo Accords.

Genesis of the Basic Law

After the PLO signed the Declaration of Principles (DOP) on the interim Self-Government Arrangements with Israel in September 1993, the PLO Legal Committee began work on a Basic Law as an interim document to govern the newly formed PA. Under the leadership of Palestinian jurist Anis Al-Qasem, several drafts were completed. One criticisms of the final document was that there had not been sufficient public participation in the process. Additionally, there were a number of loopholes that made it unlikely to prevent presidential authoritarianism.

In September 1995, a Palestinian-Israeli agreement paved the way for the establishment of an elected council for the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Among its responsibilities would be the issuance of the Basic Law. The PA Election Law, which set up the structure for electing the new council, stated that the PLC would compose a constitutional order for the transitional period founded upon “popular sovereignty, democratic principles, separation of powers, independence of the judiciary, equality among citizens, and the guarantee of the basic rights of the citizen.”

After the 1996 elections, the new PLC Legal Committee had a variety of sources to consult as it began its work on the Basic Law. In addition to the Al-Qasem draft, it also had a draft from the Al Haq human rights group, and constitutions from many countries, particularly in the Arab world. The Palestinian media covered the process and public input was sought.

In July 1996, Arafat spoke out against the draft Basic Law. He said the Basic Law should be developed by Palestinians everywhere, not just the PLC which only represented the Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem. Some commentators speculate that he found the content of the draft too progressive, checking his ability to continue governing in an authoritarian manner. Whatever the reasons, Arafat refused to comment on the First, Second, or Third and final Reading of the Basic Law. The Third Reading, which was completed in October 1997, sat on his desk in limbo until   May 2002.

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