Barely an hour before parliament was due to begin a session to vote on his ministerial team, a legislative council spokesman announced that the meeting had been pushed back to Thursday.

Parliamentary sources attributed the delay to Quraya's failure so far to persuade a majority of the council's 83 MPs to back his list of ministers which has already been radically rewritten.

The prime minister was forced on Tuesday to scrap his original line-up, which had included 15 members of parliament, and had come up instead with a radically different list dominated by technocrats and featuring only two legislators.

Palestinian MPs predict Ahmad
Quraya might have to stand down

Before the latest postponement, it was clear that Quraya would have his work cut out to stave off a revolt in the ranks of parliament, with some MPs predicting he might have to step down.

"All possibilities are open," said Abd al-Fatah Hamayil, an MP for the dominant Fatah faction.

"How we vote will depend on the names that are presented to us. If the government does not get approval today then we will discuss someone instead of Abu Ala (Quraya) who can form a cabinet."

Corruption charges


Even though Quraya has now dumped a host of long-serving ministers from the era of late Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat, some MPs still believe that some of his choices are tainted by corruption. 

"Abu Alaa (Quraya) speaks about a technocratic government, but the list still has some names who in the past have been accused of corruption"

Jamal Shaati, Fatah MP

"The situation is very hard, not only for Abu Ala, but for all of us," said Jamal Shaati, a Fatah MP from the northern West Bank town of Jenin.

"Abu Ala speaks about a technocratic government, but the list still has some names who in the past have been accused of corruption."

Other Fatah sources predicted Quraya was likely to resign if he felt he was not going to win a majority rather than face the humiliation of defeat on the floor of the legislative council where he used to serve as speaker.

Aborted session


The independent MP Jalal al-Musaddar called for Quraya to be replaced after his failure to gain approval for his original line-up during an aborted session of parliament in the West Bank town of Ram Allah on Monday. 

"The majority [of MPs] is in favour of a government of technocrats but the problem is with its leader"

Fraih Abu Midain, Fatah MP

"The withdrawal of his original government represents a failure to obtain the confidence of the legislative council and the Basic Law stipulates that a new prime minister should be chosen in such a situation," he said.

"The majority [of MPs] is in favour of a government of technocrats but the problem is with its leader," added Fraih Abu Midain, a Fatah MP and former minister of justice.

The two MPs who Quraya plans to keep on in government are negotiations minister Saib Uraiqat and foreign minister Nabil Shaath, who is in line to be promoted to deputy prime minister.


But Uraiqat threw another spanner in the works on Wednesday when he said he had declined the offer to be part of the line-up.


Radical overhaul


"I have excused myself as I am an MP and this government should not include members of parliament. There should be no exceptions," he said. 

 

Muhammad Dahlan is Quraya's
choice for civil affairs minister

If Quraya can muster a majority, reformist finance minister Salam Fayyad will keep his job as he is not an MP.

The current Palestinian representative to the United Nations, Nasir al-Qidwa, is also designated to become foreign minister, while the former overall head of security Nasir Yusuf is set to be made interior minister.

The former security minister and one-time head of preventive security in the Gaza Strip, Muhammad Dahlan, is Quraya's choice as civil affairs minister.

If he is forced to step down, Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas will have to find a new man to lead his government within the next two weeks, according to the terms of the Basic Law or mini-constitution.

Abbas, who was elected as Arafat's successor last month, is understood to have been in favour of a radical overhaul of government.