RAMALLAH, West Bank – The Palestinian president on Sunday picked a little-known academic as his new prime minister, according to the official government news agency, following his chief rival’s resignation.
Mahmoud Abbas appointed Rami Hamdallah to replace Salam Fayyad, a respected U.S.-educated economist. Fayyad frequently clashed with Abbas and was seen as being too independent.
Appointing Hamdallah will likely shore up the president’s power, because he is seen as being more pliant. Hamdallah was tasked with forming a new government of technocrats, not politicians.
Hamdallah is a member of the Fatah Party led by Abbas. He has no prior political or government experience.
Like Fayyad, Hamdallah is widely respected.
He is a British-educated English professor and has been dean of the al-Najah University in the West Bank for the past 15 years. He has served as the secretary general of the Palestinian central elections commission since 2002. He has also held a series of prominent roles in university associations, according to his curriculum vitae, published on the al-Najah University website.
It was not clear how the move would affect Abbas’ international standing.
The move comes as the U.S. is trying to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
Egypt court deems elections illegal
CAIRO – Egypt’s highest court ruled on Sunday that the nation’s interim parliament was illegally elected, though it stopped short of dissolving the chamber immediately, in a decision likely to fuel the tensions between the ruling Islamists and the judiciary.
The Supreme Constitutional Court also ruled that a 100-member panel that drafted the new constitution was illegally elected.
The immediate impact of the ruling is limited. The Islamist-dominated upper house of parliament, called the Shura Council, will remain in place until elections are held for a lower house, likely early next year. The constitution, which was ratified in a nationwide referendum in December with a relatively low turnout of around 35 percent, will also remain in effect.
Still, the opposition said the verdict shows how Islamists’ victories at the ballot box are tainted. They argued that the ruling further challenges the legitimacy of the disputed constitution, which was pushed through the panel by Islamists allied to President Mohammed Morsi.
Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood backers saw the ruling as a victory, saying that it implicitly acknowledged the legitimacy of the Shura Council and the constitution because it stopped short of trying to abrogate either.