In a second shakeup in three days, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said Monday that he would disband his Cabinet and form a new one within three weeks.
The announcement came as a surprise because the Palestine Liberation Organization, which created the authority, announced Saturday that it would hold long-delayed presidential and legislative elections by September, potentially replacing the government.
Palestinian officials presented the Cabinet reshuffling as a move to address growing calls for democratic reform, which elsewhere in the Arab world have led to leaders being ousted in Egypt and Tunisia.
“But even before Egypt, there has been a consensus for some time that the Cabinet needed to change,” said government spokesman Ghassan Khatib, noting that several positions have been left vacant for months. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas “believes we are about to enter a new period with new challenges, and we need a new and fresh Cabinet.”
In addition to preparing for elections, the Palestinian Authority is planning for a possible United Nations campaign this fall to seek international recognition of a Palestinian state.
Fatah, the main faction in the PLO, has been pushing for a new Cabinet for months, saying it is under-represented in the current government. Fatah currently has 11 of 21 Cabinet posts.
Some Fatah leaders have lobbied to unseat Fayyad from one or both of his roles as prime minister and finance minister because he is not a member of Fatah.
But Abbas has asked Fayyad, an independent and a former World Bank economist, to remain as prime minister in the next government. And the international community, which funds more than half the Palestinian Authority’s budget, has signaled that it would not support replacing Fayyad as head of the Finance Ministry, where he is credited with improving the administration’s transparency and accountability.
Fatah leaders are still grappling with the party’s reputation for corruption and nepotism, which has plagued the Palestinian Authority since its creation in 1994 under the Oslo Accords.
Some Palestinian officials said Monday’s announcement was also driven by a pending anti-corruption investigation, which is looking into allegations of theft and sexual harassment by several ministers. The reshuffling was seen as an opportunity to remove them.