Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas appointed Salam Fayyad, a Western-backed independent deputy, on Friday to serve as prime minister of an emergency government in what Hamas said amounted to a coup.
Hamas declared that Fayyad’s appointment “contradicts all Palestinian laws” and represents a “revolt against the constitution”.
Abbas’ office said Friday that the new Palestinian government would be sworn in later in the day, but followed it minutes later with an announcement that the event had been postponed. There was no immediate explanation for the confusion.
Nonetheless, Fayyad immediately started consultations with Palestinian leaders on the make-up of his cabinet, officials said, drawing fire from Hamas Islamists whose government was sacked by Abbas on Thursday following Hamas’s bloody takeover of the Gaza Strip.
Fayyad, who has good relations with Western governments, had served as finance minister in the unity government between Hamas Islamists and Abbas’s secular Fatah faction until it was disbanded.
“President Abbas has officially appointed Salam Fayyad to be the next prime minister, and Fayyad has already begun consultations to form the emergency government,” Nabil Amr, Abbas’s media adviser, said.
'Appointment is a coup'
Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri urged the former World Bank official to turn down the new post and “not to pose himself a party to this problem”.
“The appointment of Salam Fayyad as a head of the emergency government is a coup against (Hamas) legitimacy ... We ask President Abbas to withdraw the decision in order to preserve the integrity of our people,” Abu Zuhri said.
The United States, Israel and European states are preparing to ease sanctions in the West Bank to try to bolster the emergency government.
Fayyad’s appointment could accelerate the process, though it is unclear how long the emergency government will last.
Under Palestinian law, Abbas can declare a state of emergency to sack the government for a period not to exceed 30 days. The state of emergency could be extended for another period of 30 days, but only after winning the approval of two thirds of the parliament.
Hamas has a majority in the parliament—although Israel’s arrests of nearly half of Hamas’s deputies put that majority in doubt and also make it hard to reach a quorum. That could enable Abbas to keep the state of emergency in place longer.
Some Fatah officials and US diplomats have argued that Abbas could rule by decree for six months to a year ahead of new elections.
In a statement on Thursday, Abbas made clear he hoped to call for early elections “as soon as the situation on the ground allows him to do so”.
The Associated Press and AFP contributed to this article