AL-HAQ PRESS RELEASE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
10 January 2005
Al-Haq looks positively on yesterday‘s elections carried out throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). Approximately 65% of registered Palestinian voters participated in the presidential elections, which were monitored by numerous international and local observers, and were largely conducted in compliance with legal standards regarding free and fair elections. As an organisation which participated as local observers throughout the West Bank, Al-Haq believes that while there were some mistakes in the process, the overall success was indicative of the hard work of the Palestinian Central Election Commission (CEC) and the Palestinian people‘s commitment to democratic elections.
However, there were a number of significant restrictions placed upon the process by Israeli authorities, particularly in the East Jerusalem area. While a number of checkpoints throughout the West Bank were removed, the majority of those surrounding East Jerusalem remained; Israeli officials also imposed several mobile checkpoints in the vicinity. Palestinian Jerusalemites seeking to go to surrounding areas to cast their vote were faced with long lines at such checkpoints, and in some instances were told they were not allowed to cross them at all. The system established for Jerusalemites of voting at Israeli postal offices was also severely problematic, with limited privacy and difficulties in trying to conduct electoral activity at working postal facilities. Al-Haq is deeply concerned that such restrictions were intended to pressure Palestinians not to participate in the electoral process, and believes that as residents of the OPT, Palestinian Jerusalemites should be permitted to vote in Jerusalem-based Palestinian facilities in future elections.
There were two problems of note resulting from changes made by the CEC during the late afternoon of election day, notably the extension of the voting period for a further two hours and the decision to allow individuals who had not voted to register and vote at Civil Registry Voting Centres regardless of whether they were on the list of registered voters at the centre in question. Further, the lack of a registered voting list placed the reliance on the indelible ink on the thumbs of those who had voted, the indelibility of which appeared to be variable. These problems were exacerbated by the CEC‘s failure to post the list of registered voters accredited to each voting centre outside the polling station as required by the Palestinian Election Law 13 of 1995. Finally, there were some isolated problems regarding members of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) executive branch, such as seeking to override the provisions of the law by voting without providing an ID.
Despite these problems, Al-Haq believes that yesterday‘s elections were generally carried out in a smooth manner in compliance with international and domestic law. It is unquestionably difficult to conduct a national election while a country remains under occupation, and yesterday‘s elections made clear the Palestinian people‘s dedication to democracy. The organisation notes that the electoral process is still not complete, however, and urges the PNA to implement legislative elections at the nearest opportunity in a manner which takes into consideration the issues raised during this one.
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