Arafat quells revolt in legislature, vows a crackdown on corruption Legislators back down

many remain dissatisfied

December 31, 1997|By COX NEWS SERVICE

RAMALLA, West Bank -- This week, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was not trying to squeeze concessions out of Israeli negotiators or struggling to control Islamic extremists. The showdown was with his own loyalists.

In another bumpy patch on the Palestinian road to democracy, Arafat quelled yesterday a revolt among members of the Palestinian Legislative Council, the Palestinian legislature, who say he must share his power.

Members of Arafat's own Fatah faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization threatened last week to resign rather than allow the council to provide a democratic facade for Arafat's autocratic rule.

But, in several days of meetings ending late Sunday, Arafat offered promises that he would begin cracking down on corruption in his administration and paying more attention to proposals passed by the legislature.

In an unusually emotional debate yesterday, legislators decided to hold off on their threats to quit or take a nonbinding no-confidence vote on Arafat.

But many were clearly not satisfied.

"The situation is very bad. Maybe we can put some pressure on Arafat," said Hatem Abdul Qader, a Fatah legislator who has worked with Arafat for about 20 years.

Arafat's rule has been nearly absolute. He can decide everything from the negotiations with Israel to building permits for new Palestinian homes. He appoints the mayors and judges and doles out aid from international donors.

Arafat has used some of his powers to arrest dissidents and to round up Islamic extremists.

One of the proposals that legislators want Arafat to sign is called the "basic law," which would delineate the powers of the branches of government and provide guarantees of individual rights.

Pub Date: 12/31/97

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