Abbas sets date for referendum
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas issued Saturday a decree designating July 26, 2006 as a date of the general referendum on the Document of National Reconciliation issued by Palestinian prisoners in the Israeli jails. In a press conference held in the Presidential HQ in Ramallah, Abbas said that there would be no need for the proposed referendum, if the parties in the National Dialogue Conference reached an agreement on the prisoners' document, before the designated date.
"As chairman of the PLO Executive Committee and president of the Palestinian Authority, I have decided to exercise my constitutional right and duty to hold a referendum over the document of national agreement," Abbas declared.
Swiftly rejecting the announcement as a "declaration of a coup against the government", Mushir al-Masri, a leading Hamas legislator, urged Palestinians to boycott the vote. "Whoever announced the referendum should shoulder the responsibility for the dangerous consequences that may result," Masri said.
Hamas blames Abbas of using the referendum to try to engineer the downfall of the government.
The proposal calls for a Palestinian state, alongside Israel, on all of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Palestinians will be asked to vote "yes" or "no" on the question: "Do you agree with the document of national agreement -- the prisoner's document?", an aide to Abbas said.