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Palestinian Elections

An Evaluation of the Pre-Election Process, Including the Conclusions of the Monitoring Process Conducted by PCHR on the Registration of Voters in the Fourth Quarter of 2004 (The Gaza Strip)

Introduction

On the 15th of November 2004, the acting President of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) Mr. Rawhi Fattouh issued a presidential decree specifying the 9th of January 2005 as the date for holding presidential elections in order to choose a new president for the PNA, to succeed the late President Yasser Arafat.  This decision came in the context of a series of steps taken by the Palestinian political leadership to ensure a peaceful transition of authority following the death of President Arafat on the 11th of November 2004.  These steps included: Mr. Mahmoud Aabbas (Abu Mazen) was elected as Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) to succeed President Arafat who held the responsibilities of this post for decades.   The selection of Mahmoud Aabbas was made in accordance with the laws that govern the PLO and its institutions.  Mr. Rawhi Fattouh, Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), swore a constitutional oath and became the temporary president of the PNA for a period that not to exceed 60 days.  During this time free and direct elections should be organized in accordance with Article 37 of the Palestinian Basic Law.

 

The decision to hold elections given such a tight time-schedule is a difficult practical task, in respect of both the political environment and the logistical and technical preparations necessary for organizing and holding elections.  The decision coincided with the final stages of preparing the electoral register, a process which was conducted by the Palestinian Central Election Commission (CEC) since the 4th of September 2004. the preparation of this register is an important and basic element of the election process.  The registration process was started without a fixed date for the holding of general elections being set.  The CEC decided to make advance preparations to prepare for the possibility of a decision by the PNA to hold the presidential and parliamentary elections simultaneously.  When making their decision the CEC took into consideration the fact that the electoral register is valid for holding elections for up to one year.  However, the sudden death of President Yasser Arafat necessitated the holding of presidential elections in a period not exceeding 60 days after the Presidency became vacant, according to the Palestinian Basic Law. To date the holding of parliamentary elections remains outstanding sine die.

The late President Yasser Arafat issued a presidential decree on the 21st of June 2004, assigning the 4th of September 2004 as a date for starting the registration of voters, without specifying a date for holding the elections themselves.  Registration centers were opened on that date.  The process was supposed to be concluded by the 7th of October 2004, so that the preliminary electoral register would be published on the 20th of November 2004, in accordance with the Presidential decree.

However, the number of citizens wishing to register was small, for several reasons which will be detailed later on in this report. This forced the CEC to take a series of measures, including extending the registration period.  Given that no date was specified for holding the elections and due to the difficulties that faced the registration process, PCHR learnt that the CEC decided not to publish the preliminary electoral register on the date specified by the Presidential decree.  To facilitate this, the CEC asked then President Yasser Arafat to approve this decision, which he did.[1]

In light of the developments in the OPT following the death of Arafat, a presidential decree was issued assigning the 9th of  January 2005 as date for holding the presidential election.  According to that decree, the CEC was authorized to resume the registration process to facilitate the Palestinian electorate who had not been able to register during the previous period assigned for registration.  In fact, the CEC took a series of steps to resume the registration process and proceed with the subsequent stages of the election process.  One of these steps was the reopening of registration centers for one week starting on the 24th of November 2004.  In the meantime, the CEC published the preliminary electoral register for revisions and rejections at the registration center, within one week.  The CEC also declared that the names of those who registered during the extended period would be published later for revisions and rejections at offices of the electoral constituencies.  The CEC has waited for a presidential decree to be issued before publishing the final electoral register.  On the 1st of December 2004, Law 4 of 2004 amending Law 13 of 1995 Relating to Elections, was ratified.  According to the amendments, the electoral register prepared by the CEC and the civil register are the accredited records for the purpose of preparing the final electoral register.[2]

The registration process was assessed by PCHR to be transparent.  A number of observers representing international and local civil society organizations, representatives of partisan entities and the media observed the process.  PCHR, as an accredited local monitoring organization, observed the whole registration process.  PCHR has also continued its role in monitoring all stages of the election process, including monitoring the preparation of the final electoral register until the time of its publication.

This report is an integral part of the monitoring process conducted by PCHR.  It includes a comprehensive evaluation of the registration process and the preparation of the electoral register.  The report does not only include an evaluation of the technical procedures followed by the CEC to prepare the electoral register according to the law, but also includes an analysis of the political environment that surrounded the registration process and details the development of election process under the PNA.  In other words, the report provides an evaluation of the pre-election stage, including the conclusions of the observation of the registration process.

This report consists of six sections.  The first section explains the importance of elections, the right to vote and to run in elections and also the electoral register and its preparation.  The second section highlights the experience of the Palestinian general elections of January 1996, the first and only elections under the PNA since its establishment in 1994.  The third section traces the developments related to holding general elections, starting with the end of the interim period according to the Oslo Accords on 4 May 1999, which marked the end the of legal term of the 1996 elections, then the deadlock of the political process and the failure to hold elections. The report then covers the recent developments and the assignment of a date for holding a new presidential election and the preparations made to hold this election.  The fourth section of the report details PCHR’s activities as an accredited local monitoring organization, including the accreditation of its monitors by the CEC, the training and distribution of monitors and the method adopted to gather and analyze the information.  The fifth section of the report focuses on the registration process from its beginning on the 4th of September 2004 until its end on the 13th of October 2004, and the publication of the preliminary electoral register and the complementary one.  The final section evaluates the registration process itself.  In addition to the technical aspects which are the essence of the monitoring process, a significant part of this section was devoted to evaluate the political and field environment under which the registration process was conducted, both with regard to the impacts of assaults by Israeli occupation forces (IOF) against Palestinian civilians, and the Palestinian internal situation.


Elections

Democracy is essentially the government by people, and elections are the mechanism through which the people’s will is realized.  Free, fair and periodic elections are a mechanism through which people can choose their representatives. They are the ultimate form of ensuring and imposing political accountability on representatives. In the absence of free, fair and periodic elections a system can not be said to be democratic.  Over the past decades the range of the right to participate in elections, including the right to vote and the right to be nominated for candidature in democratic countries has continued to be expanded to the fullest extent.

Participation in government is a right that is enshrined in international human rights instruments.  Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights prescribes that “everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.”  It adds that “everyone has the right to equal access to public service in his country.”  The same article further asserts that “the will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.”   Article 25 of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights supports this Article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It prescribes that “every citizen shall have the right and the opportunity…to take part in the conduct of public affairs, directly or through freely chosen representatives” and “to have access, on general terms of equality, to public service in his country.”  The Declaration on Criteria for Free and Fair Elections adopted by the World Inter-Parliamentary Council at its 154th session (Paris, 26 March 1994), recognizes the right of everyone to take part in the government of his/her country. Article 1 proscribes that “in any State the authority of the government can only derive from the will of the people as expressed in genuine, free and fair elections held at regular intervals on the basis of universal, equal and secret suffrage.”

The Right to Vote and to Be Nominated for Candidature

Even through the right to vote and participate in elections is a basic right, which should be enjoyed by each citizen, it is not an absolute right; there are a number of qualifications which citizens have to meet to ensure the right of citizens to political participation.  These conditions include citizenship, age and residency.  However, some States impose a number of conditions which contradict international standards and conventions, such as the deprivation of citizens of their right to register and elect because of discrimination based on ethnicity, religion, gender, political views or social class.  In some countries, women are still prevented from participation in elections.  In other countries, registration and voting are compulsory for men, while they are selective for women.[3]  These forms of discrimination are prohibited under international human rights instruments, which guarantee equality among all segments of the society.  They also lessen the credibility and importance of elections, since they create a political administration that does not represent the peoples’ will.

Registration of Electors

The registration of electors is an essential process upon which the credibility of elections relies, since it decides which citizens are qualified to participate in elections and which are not.  Furthermore, registration assists in specifying the polling stations and candidates for each citizen as it is conducted in the place of residence of the electors, thus facilitate organizing and planning the elections.  This process also prevents multiple voting, thus ensuring the transparency, credibility and impartiality of the elections, monitored through the presence of local and international observers and media representatives.  There can never be free and impartial elections without valid and legitimate electoral registers.  Moreover, impartiality of the registration process widely contributes to increasing the electors’ trust in the seriousness of the political regimes and the democratization of the elections as a whole.  The registration process ensures the right of electors to participate in elections, both through voting and being nominated for candidature.  As this process is of a notable importance it is often subject to hindrances to influence it and its credibility, such as hindering the access to registration centers, intervention into the registration process, discouraging voters from registering and not campaigning for the importance of registration.

Methods of Registration of Electors

Methods of registration of voters vary according to the nature of political the political system.  Some systems adopt the method of self-registration which depends on self-initiative; people go to registration centers, where their names are registered on suit of their identification using formal/official standards (ID Cards/Passports/Drivers License).  Other methods can be more efficient, especially in countries that pass through transitional periods or periods of democratic reform.  In these countries the State can play a direct role in the registration process.  Such methodology can include official lists which are collected through home visits.  Other countries send forms to each family to register living members of the family who are qualified to vote.[4] This latest method can assist in updating the electoral register and decide which people are qualified to participate in elections.  This method can ensure that all living people who are qualified to vote are registered.  Other countries adopt a method through which electoral registers are automatically updated.  Under this method, official bodies provide information about citizens to the body organizing the elections, which in turn uses it to decide which citizens are qualified to participate in the elections.[5]

Monitoring of Elections

 

 Monitoring is the process of gathering information about all stages of elections through a systematic organized mechanism which allows objective and neutral evaluations of the elections.  Monitoring aims at ensuring the impartiality of the elections, as it includes observations of the registration of electors, the performance of election commissions, election campaigns, voting, counting of votes and other matters related to elections until the final declaration of results.  Monitoring of elections is a very important process especially in countries that undergo democratic reforms, where trust in official bodies is weak and people rely on a series of independent procedures to be certain of the accuracy of the elections.  Monitoring teams can achieve this goal as they play a major role in ensuring an atmosphere of impartiality exists for the elections and as well as scrutinizing their results.

Monitoring teams are ones that are formed by NGOs and entities that are independent from the candidates, which makes them neutral.  International monitoring teams, formed by intergovernmental organizations or international NGOs, who have an interest in elections and the encouragement of democracy and also have some considerable experience in electoral matters.

In order for the conclusions of the monitoring process and reports of monitors to be objective and neutral, both local and international monitors should have a number of characteristics, the most important of which are: neutrality, independence and being completely non-partisan.  Monitors should be accurate and timely in monitoring and documenting incidents and information.  Moreover, they should themselves be transparent by openly documenting the mechanisms they follow in gathering information.  Monitors should also adhere to laws and regulations that organize the monitoring process.

The media also plays a major role in monitoring elections, especially if journalists enjoy freedom to move easily among ballot centers, to monitor the election process and to access and impart information.


Palestinian Elections of 1996

The presidential and parliamentary elections of January 1996 were the first elections to be held under the PNA. These elections were conducted according to the Palestinian-Israeli agreements. Article 3 of the Declaration of Principles singed in Washington on 13th September 1993 between the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Israel calls for holding free and direct general elections to choose members of the PLC. In September 1994, the two parties agreed to start negotiations related to elections in Cairo on 3rd October 1994.  At the conclusion of these negotiations, the two parties signed Annex 2, Protocol Concerning Elections, in the context of the Palestinian – Israeli Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip signed in Washington on 28th September 2004.  Article 1, paragraph 2, of the Protocol prescribes that “the holding of elections for the position of Ra’ees and for the Palestinian Council shall be governed by this Annex, and the Law on the Election of the Ra’ees and the Palestinian Council and the regulations made under this law.”  According to the same article, “the Election Law and the Election Regulations shall be consistent with the provisions of this Agreement.”  It further states that “unless otherwise specifically provided in this Annex, all persons voting or standing as candidates in the elections shall be uniformly subject to the provisions of the Election Law and the Election Regulations.”

According to these agreements, the PNA initiated a series of practical steps to organize elections, which were too fast and did not take place in a natural space of time. On 7th December 1995, Law 13 of 1995 Relating to Elections was promulgated.[6] In the following days, a series of presidential decrees related to elections were issued. On 13th December 1995, presidential decree 1 of 1995 was issued, calling for elections. The decree assigned 20th January 1996 added a date for polling and decided to open the registration of electors for 9 days starting on 14th December 1995. On 14th December 1995, presidential decree 2 was issued, distributing the 83 seats of the PLC among the 16 electoral constituencies, and allocating the number of seats devoted to Christians and Samaritans. On 21st December 1995, presidential decree 3 was issued, which established the Central Election Commission and nominated its head and members.  On 23rd December 2004, presidential decree 4 was issued, establishing an Election Appeals Court, consisted of a head and 4 members. On 28th December 2004, presidential decree 5 was issued, increasing the number of the seats of the PLC to 87, and extending the period of nomination for candidature to be from Friday morning, 29th December 1995 to Sunday evening, 31st December 1995.  On 29th December 1995, presidential decree 6 was issued, adding an 88th seat to the PLC and extending the period of nomination for candidature to 24:00 on Sunday, 31st December 1995.  Also on 29th December 1995, Law 16 was approved, amending Law 13 of 1995 Relating to Elections. The amended law increases the number of the seats of the PLC from 83 to 88 and gives the president the authority to extend the period of nomination for candidature.

On 20th January 1996, Palestinian electors went to polling centers to choose a president of the PNA and members of the PLC. The number of candidates for membership of the PLC was 762 – 370 in the West Bank and 302 in the Gaza Strip. The number of polling centers was 1702 – 1204 in the West Bank and 498 in the Gaza Strip. By closing the poling boxes, 780,079 out of 1,028,280 electors had voted in the elections. After the polling ended, the counting of votes, which was the third and last phase of the elections, started. All polling centers in the electoral constituencies finished the counting of votes in the early morning of 21st January 1996. Then, the polling boxes and protocols were transported to district election offices, which in turn counted the votes and declared the initial results. This process continued until 08:00 on 22nd January 1996. After the results were declared, protocols of and copies of initial results were transported from electoral constituencies to the CEC. The official final results were declared on 25th January 1996.

Central Election Commission

 

Article 22, paragraph 1, of Law 13 Relating to Elections prescribes that “the Central Election Commission is the supreme organ which conducts and controls the elections and is responsible for the preparation, organization, and the adoption of all the necessary measures to ensure the freedom and fairness of the elections.” Paragraph 2 prescribes that “the Central Election Commission shall be composed of 9 persons who must be members of the Palestinian judiciary, outstanding academics, or lawyers, with reputable professional career and experience.” However, the authority to appoint the head, secretary general and members of the CEC lies in the hands of the president of the PNA according to a presidential decree calling for elections. On 21st December 1995, presidential decree 3 was issued, which established the CEC, nominated Mr. Mahmoud Abbas as its head and nominated 9 members.[7]

Article 23 of Law 13, paragraph 1 prescribes that “the Central Election Commission shall have legal personality and be totally independent in economic and administrative terms, and shall not be subject to any other governmental or administrative institution in the exercise of its functions.” Paragraph 2 prescribes that “Once the election process is finished, the Central Election Commission shall be dissolved and all its resources shall be transferred to the permanent Palestinian Electoral Commission, which shall be appointed by the President of the Palestinian National Authority.” Article 24 of Law 13 prescribes the powers and competences of the CEC “to put into effect the provisions of this law” and “to adopt the necessary measures to prepare, organize, conduct and control the elections.”  Once it was established, the CEC started to prepare for the elections.[8]

The Electoral Register

The PNA started to prepare the electoral register several weeks before approving Law 13 Relating to Elections and before the establishment pf the CEC. These measures took place in accordance with the Protocol Concerning Elections annexed to the Israeli – Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip signed in Washington on 28th December 1995, whose provisions were taken into consideration when promulgating Law 13. The registration of electors was carried out from 12th November to 2nd December 1995 by 7000 teachers who moved from one house to another to register all citizens who were over 17 years old. On 3rd December 1995, the data processing of electoral register was completed and the electoral register was published for inspection on 10th December 1995 to receive claims regarding the register until 14th December 1995. On 29th December 1995, the final electoral register was published[9]. On 14th January 1996, registration was reopened for Palestinian prisoners who were then released from Israeli jails. The CEC also made some amendments to the electoral register in the period of 5th to 16th January 1996, due to the political changes that took place, including the transfer of some polling centers from a number of electoral constituencies to other and adding names of some electors to the register.[10]

Observation of Elections

 

All stages of the Palestinian elections of 1996 were public and open for local and international observation. Article 103, paragraph 1, of Law 13 of 1995 Relating to Elections prescribes that “all stages of the electoral process described by this Law shall be public and open to international and domestic observation, and to coverage by the reporters of the international and domestic information media.The CEC accredited hundreds of international and local observers in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including Jerusalem.

Observation of Palestinian Elections of 1996 by PCHR

PCHR led the observation of Palestinian elections of 1996 in cooperation with a number of active NGOs in the Gaza Strip. PCHR recruited 72 observers who were trained to observe the various stages of the lections. PCHR applied to the CEC to accredit these observers, but the CEC accredited just 20 of them, and following consultations, the CEC accredited 10 more. Thus, 30 PCHR observers monitored all stages of the elections.  The remaining observers who were not accredited by the CEC unofficially monitored the elections, where it was not necessary to be accredited by the CEC to monitor, including the election campaigns and preparations for the polling day.[11]

PCHR received considerable attention by international and local observers, the media and candidates. PCHR communicated and coordinated with them to ensure maxim cooperation. During the stages of elections, PCHR held a series of meetings with chief international observers to discuss developments and exchange information with them.  PCHR also provided legal assistance for electors and candidates in all stages of the elections.

PCHR issued a series of updates and reports on the elections, such as Palestinian Elections: Conditions and Hindrances, Report on the Conclusions of Observation of the Elections, and General Elections, January 1996: A Documentation of the Local Observation Experience in the Gaza Strip.

In order to ensure coordination and cooperation, PCHR made consistent contacts with, and sent letters to the CEC, pointing out PCHR’s notes or inquiries on particular issues related to the elections. The CEC positively responded to most notes and inquiries submitted by PCHR.


Palestinian Elections: The Road Map Plan and After

Palestinians elections of January 1996 have been the only elections organized under the PNA since its establishment in 1994.  At the local level, no elections for local councils have been organized, and all local councils have been appointed by the PNA, although a law organizing these elections was promulgated in 1996.[12]

The legal term of the PLC was supposed to end on 4 May 1999, with the end of the interim period during which the Palestinian and Israeli sides were supposed to reach an agreement on the final status of the OPT.  However, the two sides did not reach such agreement and the interim period did not end.  It was clear for the Palestinians that Israel maneuvered to maintain its control over the OPT and exploit time to create irreversible facts on the ground and annex more Palestinian land.  As the political process reached a deadlock, there was no place to talk about new general elections, and the PLC, whose legal term ended, continued its work without a new public authorization through free and fair elections.  With the outbreak of the current Palestinian Intifada, holding elections became farther than ever before as no priorities emerged on the Palestinian agenda in light of increasing attacks by IOF on Palestinian civilians and property.

In 2002, external and internal pressure to make reforms in the PNA institutions increased, and the issue of elections emerged again.  On 23 May 2002, the late President Yasser Arafat stated that presidential and parliamentary elections would be held by the coming winter, provided that IOF withdraw from Palestinian areas in order for the elections to be free, emphasizing that elections could not be appropriately held, while Palestinian were under siege.[13] This statement came following a meeting between President Arafat and the reform committee established by the PLC to prepare a report on reforms in the PNA.  The committee provided 3 recommendations, including holding presidential and parliamentary elections at the end of 2002, and elections for local councils at the beginning of 2003.[14] On 27 May 2002, the Palestinian leadership declared in a statement at the conclusion of its weekly meeting that there was a consensus that presidential and parliamentary elections could be held in December 2002.[15] Later, 20 January 2004 was assigned a date of holding general elections, [16] but as IOF continued attacks on Palestinians areas, the Palestinian leadership concluded that it was impossible to hold elections on the assigned date and decided to approve the CEC’s recommendation to postpone the elections once IOF redeploy to their locations as it was the situation before 28 September 2000.[17] The PNA continued preparations to hold elections on the assigned day, including making efforts in the PLC to amend Law 13 of 1995 Relating to Elections.

Presidential Decree Concerning the Establishment of the CEC

In the context of preparations for holding general elections, on 10 October 2002, presidential decree 14 of 2002 was issued.  The decree appointed Dr. Hanna Nasser as the President of the CEC.  On 27 October 2002, presidential decree 15 of 2002 was issued deciding that the permanent CEC would be comprised as follows: 1) Dr. Hanna Nasser as the President of the CEC; 2) Dr. Ali Jarbawi as the Secretary General of the CEC; 3) Judge Ishaq Muhanna as a member; 4) Judge Mazen Sisalem as a member; 5) Attorney Ali As-Safarini as a member; 6) Attorney Shukri An-Nashashibi as a member; 7) Dr. Rami al-Hamdallah as a member; 8) Mrs. Lamis al-Alami as a member; and 9) Attorney Ibrahim As-Saqqa as a member.  This decree marked the first occasion when changes were made to the formation of the CEC since 1996.  Before issuing this decree, the CEC was practically not active.

Following its establishment, the CEC started to prepare for holding elections on 20 January 2003.  It held its first meeting in Ramallah on 7 November 2002, in spite of restrictions imposed by IOF on the freedom of movement.[18] On 11 November 2002, the CEC held its first meeting with President Arafat.  Members of the CEC detailed the hindrances that faced the CEC, which were essentially attributed to the total siege imposed by IOF on the OPT.[19]

In an attempt by the CEC to organize its work, it established the National Elections Office (NEO), which is the administrative and executive body of the CEC.  A main office of the NEO was opened in Ramallah.  Staff members of the office prepared plans to  organize the elections in general under direct supervision of their executive official.  A district office of the NEO was also established in Gaza to coordinate with, and supervise the work of district election offices in the Gaza Strip and prepare reports in this regard to the main office in Ramallah.  District election offices were established to implement all stages of elections, including the registration of electors, polling and counting of votes in their respective electoral constituencies.  These offices are supervised by the main office in Ramallah.

Holding elections on 20 January 2002 was absolutely impossible due to the continued incursions by IOF into the West Bank towns following the “Operation Defensive Shield”, which started on 29 March 2002 and officially ended on 21 April 2002.  This wide scale operation killed hundreds of Palestinians and left large destruction to Palestinian towns, especially Jenin and Nablus.  By the end of November 2002, several Palestinian officials stated that the elections might be postponed due to attacks by IOF.[20] On 20 December 2002, President Arafat received members of the CEC and listened to their evaluation of the situation.  They recommended postponement of the elections due the re-occupation of Palestinian towns and the total siege imposed by IOF on Palestinian communities.  In a press conference held following this meeting, Dr. Hanna Nasser, President of the CEC, stated that the CEC recommended President Arafat to consider postponement of the elections due to the hindrances imposed by IOF.[21] On 22 December 2002, the Palestinian leadership decided in the conclusion of its weekly meeting to postpone the presidential and parliamentary elections, which were supposed to be held on 20 January 2003, until IOF end their occupation of Palestinian towns and withdraw to the locations of 28 September 2000.[22]

Elections and the Road Map Plan

In the first half of 2003, the Palestinian leadership was engaged in the issue of establishing the post of a prime minister in the PNA, under international pressure, especially by the United States.  The US President George Bush linked the publication of the Road Map Plan with the appointment of a Palestinian prime minister given effective authorities as an essential element of the PNA reforms.  The plan, supervised by the Quartet[23], was concerned with a series of steps the Palestinian and Israeli sides must take in stages to reach “a final and comprehensive settlement for the Palestinian – Israeli conflict by 2005 according to the US vision presented by President George Bush in his speech on 24 June 2002.”

In the middle of March 2003, the PLC amended the Palestinian Basic Law, which was ratified in July 2002 for the interim period, that is 8 months earlier.  On 18 March 2002, President Arafat ratified the amended Basic Law.  On 19 March 2002, President Arafat authorized Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), Secretary of the PLO and the former President of the CEC, to form a new Palestinian cabinet.  The formation of the cabinet faced a series of crises and differences, which were centered on the powers granted to the prime minister and ministers and the figures chosen by Abu Mazen for his cabinet.  On 29 April 2003, the Abu Mazen government gained confidence from the PLC, and on 1 May 200, Abu Mazen and his cabinet swore the constitutional oath before the Palestinian President Yasser Arafat.

With the appointment of a Palestinian prime minister, the political process gained momentum especially after the US Secretary of State officially published the official text of the Road Map Plan on 1 May 2003.  The plan consists of three stages.  The first stage extends from the date of its publication until May 2003, during which Palestinians would pledge to stop armed attacks in accordance with steps decided by the plan.  These steps would be accompanied by similar steps by the Israeli side, and the two side would resume security cooperation according to the Tenneth plan.  The Palestinian side would make comprehensive political reforms in preparation for the declaration of a Palestinian state, including the promulgation of a Palestinian constitution, establishing the post of a prime minister and holding free and fair elections.  Israel would also withdraw to the locations that preceded 28 September 2000.  The second stage would extend from June to December 2003, during which efforts would be centered on the option of an independent Palestinian state with temporary borders, accompanied by additional steps concerning settlements.  The third stage aims to promote reforms in the Palestinian institutions and stability of the Palestinian security performance and resume Palestinian – Israeli negotiations to reach an agreement of the final status by 2005.

Mr. Mahmoud Abbas stated to Palestinian newspapers that its was necessary to fully implement the Road Map Plan.[24] Two meeting between Abbas and the Israeli Prime Minster Ariel Sharon were held on 17 and 29 May 2003, following which 89 Palestinian prisoners, most of whom had been placed under administrative detention, were released on  June 2003.[25]

In an attempt to coordinate efforts and push the peace process forward, the Sharm al-Sheikh Summit took place on Tuesday, 3 June 2003.  Six Arab countries participated in this summit: Egypt; Saudi Arabia; Morocco; Bahrain; and Palestine.  The summit discussed the Road Map Plan and combating what Washington calls “terrorism”, in addition to the Iraqi crisis and economic cooperation.  This summit was followed by another one held in Aqaba in Jordan on the following day.  The US President George Bush, Mahmoud Abbas, Sharon and King Abdullah of Jordan participated in the summit.  The Palestinian and Israeli sides pledged to implement the Road Map Plan.[26]

The two summits were followed by intensive Palestinian – Israeli security meetings.  Israeli media sources also reported about facilitations to be provided for Palestinians, including allowing 25,000 Palestinian workers and 8000 traders to travel to Israel, allowing patients to freely reach medical institutions and allowing the transportation of goods.[27] However, such facilitations were not implemented and the security meetings failed as the Israeli side wanted that Palestinians “suppress armed attacks” in exchange of real facilitations.  The Palestinian leadership held a series of meetings with Palestinian organizations.  These meetings concluded a truce declared by the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas), the Islamic Jihad and Fatah movement on 29 June 2003 for  months, provided that all forms of Israeli aggression on the Palestinian people are stopped and all prisoners in Israeli jails are released.  According to a statement issued by the three organizations, if the Israeli side did not meet these conditions, the Palestinian organization would be free of this truce.  In fact, this was the outcome, as the Israeli side neglected these demands and the security understandings between the Palestinian and Israeli side did not result in any crucial change to the situation on the ground as attacks by IOF continued.

The complicated internal situation, demonstrated in the conflict of powers between Mahmoud Abbas and the late President Yasser Araft, and the external environment represented by attacks by IOF forced Mahmoud Abbas to resign on 6 September 2003.  On the following day, President Arafat authorized Ahmed Qurai to form a new government.

 

 

 

Elections Again

Discussions on elections emerged again during the first meeting of Ahmed Qurai’s cabinet, which had gained the confidence of the PLC on the 12th of November 2003.  In this meeting, which was held on the 1st of November 2003, the cabinet asserted that reforms would continue and preparations for holding presidential, parliamentary and local elections by June 2004 would start.[28] Subsequently, the CEC started preparations for the registration of electors and the organization of elections.  As attacks by IOF escalated, at the end of the weekly meeting of the Palestinian cabinet on 10 May 004, Ahmed Qurai called on the CEC to assign a date for holding Palestinian general elections, provided that the situation in the OPT is appropriate for holding elections.  He emphasized that it was impossible to hold elections as long as the Israeli occupation continues.  He further added that elections of Palestinian local councils would be held in stages starting from August 2004 and ending in one year.[29]

On the 24th of May 2004, presidential decree 8 of 2004 concerning elections of local councils was issued.  It established that the Higher Election Committee (HEC).  Then, Jamal al-Shoubaki, Minister of Local Government and President of the HEC, declared a plan to start holding elections of local councils in September 2004.  Dr. Ali Jarbawi, President of the CEC that organized presidential and parliamentary elections, also stated that the CEC was making efforts to complete arrangements to start the registration of electors.  On the 21st of June 2004, presidential decree (no number) of 2004 concerning elections was issued.  It assigned dates of starting the registration of electors and the publication of initial electoral register for inspection.  On the 24th of June 2004, Dr. Sa’eb Erakat, the higher Palestinian negotiator, stated in a press conference held in Washington that Palestinians were ready to hold general elections in 6 months.[30]

These official statements come at a time when a number of provisions of Law 5 of 1996 concerning elections of local councils were being debated.  A number of differences regarding this law emerged, such as assigning a quota for women, the election of the chairperson of a local council and the participation of refugees in the elections.[31] With regard to Law 13 of 1995 Relating to Elections, there were demands to amend it.  On 15 June 2004, the special committee formed by the PLC for this purpose held a meeting to put a general framework to promulgate a modern election law.  The committee decided to hold four periodic meetings in July 2004, including a meeting with representatives of all partisan entities to obtain their official positions and viewpoints.  In addition, it was decided that the legal committee of the PLC would determine issues of differences and present them to the PLC to vote on.  The committee would then bring them back to the committee, to be included in the law, in order to start preparing the law for its first reading in 45 days.  Following a series of discussions, the PLC approved some amendments to the two laws in its session that was held on 1 December 2004.  The Palestinian President Rawhi Fattouh ratified them on the same day.

Presidential Decree Concerning Registration of Electors

On 21 June 2004, the late Palestinian President Yasser Arafat issued presidential decree 9 of 2004 concerning elections.  The decree assigned 4 September 2004 as a date to start the registration of electors, which would continue until 7 October 2004.[32] According to the decree, the initial electoral register would published for public inspection for 5 days starting from 20 November 2004.  The decree did not decide a date of holding elections.  Immediately, the CEC started preparations for the registration of electors, although it was clear that the registration of electors was not necessarily linked with holding elections, but it came in the context of the CEC’s job.

 

 

 

Preparations for the Registration of Electors

Article 13 of 1995 Relating to Elections prescribed that “the National Election Office and the District Election Offices are the executive bodies of the Central Election Commission.”  These offices are in charge of “monitoring the formation of the initial and final electoral registers, signing them, and supervising the amendment of the initial electoral register in accordance with the decisions of the Polling Station Commissions and of the Central Election Commission following the filing of claims.”  Article 27 of Law 13 prescribes that “Each District Election Commission shall be composed of 5 members appointed by the Central Election Commission…” which “shall appoint the President and the Secretary of each one of the District Election Commissions from among its members.”  Article 28 of Law 13 prescribes that “each District  Election Commission shall conduct, organize and monitor all the electoral operations taking place within the respective district” and shall, inter alia, “supervise the preparation and forming of the initial and final electoral registers… and implement all the norms and instructions issued by the Central Election Commission.”  In addition, there are polling station commissions, which are the basic unit of election administration.  According to Law 13, these commissions are in charge of “registering the electors and compiling the initial and final electoral register… and adjudicating on claims and objections arising from the initial register and amending it in accordance with its decisions on the filed claims.”

When the presidential decree calling for holding general elections, the CEC had already started to prepare the first stage of elections, which was the establishment of an administrative system to plan and supervise the elections.  The CEC had also established district election commission and polling station commissions.  The later are those to which qualified citizens go during the period of registration of electors and the day of polling.  The CEC employed 3000 registration officers in all Palestinian districts.  There are a manger and two registration officers for each polling station, and 100 supervisors to the whole polling stations.  These employees were trained for 3 days in 50 locations.  These employees occupied nearly 1000 poling stations that cover all Palestinian communities.  In addition, 120 employees were appointed for the data entry centers.

Then, the CEC started to implement the second stage concerning the registration of electors.  This stage includes office preparations.  It also includes field preparations, such as buying and printing registration materials, disseminating information publication to urge citizens to register, receiving applications from organizations partisan entities wishing to observe the elections and issuing cards for accredited observers.  This registration of electors itself is a part of this stage.  This stage is the longest and most expensive of all stages.

The Palestinian territory was divided into 16 electoral constituencies in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip: Jerusalem; Jenin; Tulkarm; Tubas; Nablus; Qalqilya; Salfit; Ramallah; Jericho; Bethlehem; Hebron; Northern Gaza; Gaza; Deir al-Balah; Khan Yunis; and Rafah.  Each constituency was divided into a number of polling stations according to the population density of the respective constituency, in a way that each polling station can receive a maximum of 3000 electors.

These constituencies were classified according to Law 13 of 1995 Relating to Elections, which was amended and ratified on 1 December 2004.  The electoral register prepared by the CEC, and the civil register, were both accredited to decide who is qualified to vote and be nominated for candidature in the elections.  Although this amendment was criticized, the CEC stated that this amendment would not impact on the lections, emphasizing that it would adopt necessary technical procedures to ensure the fairness of the elections.[33]

Publicity and Transparency: Observation of Election Stages

 

Article 103 of Law 13 of 1995 Relating to Elections prescribes: “1. All stages of the electoral process described by this Law shall be public and open to international and domestic observation, and to coverage by the reporters of the international and domestic information media.  2. The Central Election Commission shall accredit and issue accreditation documents to any observer or reporter of the communication media, both international and domestic, who so requests.” Article 47 of Law 13 prescribes that “every partisan entity and every independent candidate may appoint agents to observe the different phases of the electoral process, mainly the vote and the counting of votes.” It further prescribes that “agents are required to be accredited by the Central Election Commission at least 7 days before polling day.”

In implementation of Law 13, Bylaw No ( ) of 2004 Regarding Registration of Voters for Presidential and Legislative Elections prepared by the CEC devotes a large part to: 1) Agents of partisan entities; 2) Local and international observers; and 3) media representatives.  According to articles 22 and 23 of the Bylaw, agents of partisan entities and local and international observers are accredited in accordance with the procedures established by the CEC.  Prior to being accredited, they have to sign a pledge stating that they respect the Code of Conduct approved by the CEC.  They are given the right to free movement among registration centers and can follow up the registration steps, including the mechanism form completion, provided that they do not hinder or intervene in the task of the registration staff members.

The CEC established necessary steps and procedures to accredit each of the aforementioned segments, to ensure fairness of the elections on one hand, and the non-intervention of observers into the election process itself on the other hand.

Bylaw Regarding the Accreditation of the Partisan Entities and Independent Candidate Agents

The CEC issued Bylaw No. ( ) of 2004 Regarding the Accreditation of the Partisan Entities and Independent Candidate Agents.  Article 2 of the Bylaw prescribes that “each partisan entity registered by the CEC[34] or independent candidate shall have the right to nominate agents on their behalf to observe the electoral process.”  According to the same articles, the CEC accredits agents of partisan entities and independent candidates and issue accreditation cards to them qualifying them as accredited agents.  These agents “must abide by the Code of Conduct for Partisan Entities and Candidate Agents” annexed to this Bylaw.

 

Accreditation of Local and International Observers

                              

The CEC established two bylaws regarding the accreditation of both local and international observers.[35]  Article 4 of Bylaw No. ( ) of 2004 Regarding Accreditation of Local Observers prescribes:

 

“A. Registered Palestinian civil society organizations and bodies, acting within the Palestinian Authority’s territories or in East Jerusalem, may apply to observe the electoral process. 

B. Eligible bodies and proposed observers must be totally free from any financial or hierarchal or administrative affiliation to any political party or electoral candidate. Observation bodies and observers must not be biased to any of the candidates or political parties.”

 

Article 4 of Bylaw No. ( ) of 2004 Regarding Accreditation of International Observers prescribes:

 

” The following bodies shall have the right to apply to observe the electoral process:

A. International and regional organizations.

B. Representatives of states and foreign missions.

C. International NGOs permitted to exercise their activities in accordance

with the laws effective in their home countries.

D. Any other bodies deemed to be qualified by the authorized committee.”

The CEC established codes of conduct of local and international observers to determine right observation criteria, including neutrality, accuracy and adherence to rules and regulations, and the rights and duties of observers,

 

Notes of Observers and Mechanisms of Communication with the CEC During the Registration of Electors

 

According to the codes of conduct of local and international observers, they have the right to contact, receive information and responses to inquiries and submit notes to the CEC.  The CEC Electoral Affairs Department has to respond to inquiries and notes submitted by observation bodies.  The CEC requests that each observation bodies delegate a contact person to coordinate its contact with the CEC.  According to Bylaw No. ( ) of 2004 Regarding Accreditation of Local Observers, the contact person is “the person delegated by the eligible body to receive and submit all documents/correspondence from, or to, the CEC, the Department or the district electoral office and sign all documents and pledges needed for the accreditation process. The contact person shall also be delegated to receive all the correspondence directed to, and duly submit it to, the local observers during and after the accreditation process”

 

There are two ways to submit notes of observers to the CEC: verbally by observer; or in writing by the contact person.  Verbal notes are delivered to the concerned registration center manager or the official of electoral affairs at the respective district election office.  Written notes are submitted to the official of electoral affairs at the respective district election office.

 


PCHR’s Work As an Accredited Monitoring Organization

 

PCHR has consistently called for presidential, parliamentary and local elections to be held, since May 1999. Elections are necessary to realize political participation and the transfer of authority.  The registration of voters is important to ensure the right of participation in the elections through voting or being nominated for candidature.  It is important to have a valid and integral electoral register to ensure the credibility of elections, PCHR believes that the registration of electors, in spite of its importance, does not need the recruitment of hundreds of monitors to observe the registration process at registration centers.  So, PCHR delegated a limited number of monitors, who were chosen from PCHR’s staff members.

Accreditation of PCHR As a Local Monitoring Organization

On the 10th of August 2004, PCHR submitted an official application to the CEC to be accredited as a local monitoring organization.  On the 31st of August 2004, the CEC approved PCHR’s application and issued special identification cards for the monitors listed in PCHR’s application.

Training of Monitors

 

PCHR trained a number of monitors to improve their qualifications, taking into consideration the importance of the registration of electors.  In this context, PCHR held a meeting with its monitors to raise their awareness on the regulations of the registration process, the elections and the rules of conduct of local and international monitors.  In these meetings the aspects of the registration process that had to be focused on were determined.  PCHR was also careful to discuss all aspects of this process with its monitors and to answer inquiries in this regard.

Distribution of Monitors

Eighteen monitors, from PCHR’s staff were chosen to observe the registration of electors.  The heavy burden of monitoring was put on the shoulders of five field workers in the Gaza Strip, who were assisted by other PCHR’s staff members.  The monitors were distributed randomly, ensuring variation and an element of surprise and variation was involved in visits to registration centers.  There was a special focus on registration centers located in inaccessible areas.  The number of registration centers in each electoral constituency was also taken into consideration.  PCHR’s monitoring activities were absolutely voluntary and were added to the normal work of PCHR’s staff members, without PCHR having to pay additional expenditures or bear any financial burdens resulting from being accredited as a monitoring organization.

What Do We Monitor?

PCHR compiled a list that included the main elements of monitoring.  Copies of the form were handed to each individual monitor, who was asked to fill it in and write down notes about each visit they conducted to each registration center.  In the form, PCHR focused on a number of specific procedures to be monitored in order to ensure the consistency of the monitors’ work and the nature of issues to be addressed.  Monitors were also given the freedom to write down their notes and other aspects which were not included in the form.  The form included identification of a registration center, including its name, the electoral constituency where it is located and the time and date of the visit.  It also included a number of issues to be taken into consideration by the monitors in the monitoring process.  After completing the forms, the information included in them would be collated and saved in a special way.  PCHR’s Contact Person regularly discussed the notes included in these forms with the CEC.

In addition to these forms, PCHR relied on reports prepared by PCHR’s Field Work Unit on problems and difficulties that hindered the registration process in a limited number of registration centers, and on the registration process in other centers that witnessed unusual incidents.

Receiving and Analyzing Information

Information included in the forms was put into a special table and was then analyzed to reach conclusions related to registration centers, the people’s desire to register, the extent to which registrars were committed to applying regulations in the registration process.  To reach accurate conclusions on the registration process, PCHR created a mechanism to monitor the stages following the closure of registration centers, including the publication of the initial electoral register, which was opened for rejections and eventually the publication of the final electoral register.

Information about the Centers Visited

 

Since the 4th of September 2004, when the registration of electors started, PCHR had conducted visits to registration centers in various electoral constituencies in the Gaza Strip to monitor the registration process.  PCHR monitored the whole registration process, which continued until the 1st of December, the day on which the extended period of registration ended.  PCHR made visits to 162 registration centers,[36] that is 64.5% of the total number of registration centers in the Gaza Strip (251 centers).  The following table provides information about the centers visited and monitored by PCHR:

Constituency

Number of registration centers

Number of centers visited

Percentage

Number of visits

Northern Gaza Strip

49

19

38.7%

25

Gaza

86

23

38.3%

59, including 8 mobile ones

Central Gaza Strip

33

32

96.9%

67, including 2 mobile ones

Khan Yunis

49

46

93.8%

62

Rafah

34

32

94.1%

39, including a mobile one

Total

251

162

64.5%

252


The Registration Process

On the 4th of September 2004, 998 registration centers in 16 governorates throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip opened their doors to receive citizens wishing to register for elections.  These centers worked from 09:00 to 17:00 everyday excluding Fridays.  On Fridays, the centers worked fro 09:00 to 12:00 and from 14:00 to 17:00.  Later, the working hours on Fridays were increased by an additional hour and the centers closed their doors at 18:00 instead of 17:00.  By the end of the first week, 125,939 citizens went to the registration centers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, 6.96% of the total number of those who have the right to vote, which is estimated at 1,807,624.  In the Gaza Strip, 46,145 out of 655,217 citizens who have the right to vote (7.04%) went to registration.  These numbers represented a negative indicator for the registration process.  Consequently, the CEC took a series of measures, which will be detailed later, to encourage citizens to register.  In the second week, the number of registered electors mounted to 152,967, including 55,518 in the Gaza Strip.  The number of registered electors continued to increase, it was 192,023 by the third week, including 70,571 in the Gaza Strip.  The number of registered electors increased to 246,333 in the fourth week, including 94,883 in the Gaza Strip.  In the fifth week, the number of registered electors mounted to 285,842, including 97,207 in the Gaza Strip.  As the period of registration was extended for a sixth week until the 13th of October 2004, 106,340 citizens, including 46,162 in the Gaza Strip registered their names at registration centers.  Thus, by the 13th of October 2004, the number of registered electors throughout the West Bank and the Gaza Strip had been 1,109,444, which constitute 61.3% of those who have the right to vote.  This number includes 410,486 registered electors in the Gaza Strip, which constitute 62.6% of the number of those who have the right to vote in  the Strip.

As can be seen, the measures taken by the CEC contributed to increase the number of registered electors during the original period of registration.  This process was disrupted only by assaults launched by Israeli occupation forces (IOF), including repeated incursions into Palestinian areas, which led to temporarily closing of a number of registration centers.  For instance, as a result of an incursion by IOF into Jabalya refugee camp, the number of citizens who registered their names for the elections in the northern Gaza Strip in the fifth week of registration dropped to 14.005, after it had been 19,354 in the fourth week.  The decrease of the number of citizens who registered for the elections in the northern Gaza Strip continued and reached 7,341, a decrease by 6.664 in comparison with the number in the fifth week.

With regard to Jerusalem, the CEC did not published detailed information about the numbers of registered electors in each of the six weeks of registration, but published the final number of registered electors, which was 26,570.  This low number of registered electors in Jerusalem can be attributed to the unique situation in the city and the Israeli efforts to prevent Palestinians living in the city from going to registration centers.  For instance, on the 13th of September 2004, IOF closed 13 registration centers in Jerusalem and arrested staff members from these centers.  IOF also confiscated records of registration and other documents related to the registration process.  These measures were ordered by the Israeli Internal Security Minister Gidon Ezra, and copies of the order were stuck on doors of these centers.

Additional Measures to Encourage Registration

 

As the number of citizens wishing to register for the elections was relatively small in the first stages of the registration process, the CEC took a series of steps to encourage citizens to register their names at registration centers, in an attempt to overcome the hindrances imposed by IOF, which had largely contributed to decreasing the number of registered electors.  One of these steps was opening temporary registration centers in the 16 electoral constituencies.  The CEC also allowed citizens to register in registration centers in electoral constituencies other than theirs, provided that they vote in their original constituencies.  For instance, a temporary registration center was opened in the Square of the Unknown Soldier in Gaza City to register citizens from various electoral constituencies throughout the Gaza Strip.  The CEC opened registration centers in each university to allow students to register for the elections.  In addition, the CEC took a number of measures to facilitate the registration of disabled and elderly people.

The CEC coordinated with local radio stations through broadcasting episodes aimed at raising the awareness of citizens on the importance of registration for the election and the period of registration.  Furthermore, the CEC invited people through megaphones to go to registration centers throughout the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.  Public Relations Officers in various electoral constituencies of the CEC organized a number of meetings in coordination with civil society groups to encourage citizens to register for the elections. [37]

Extension of the Period of Registration

The registration process was due to be completed by the 7th of October 2004,  5 weeks following the opening of registration centers.  However, it was decided on the 5th of October 2004 to extend the period of registration until Wednesday evening, the 13th of October 2004.  The CEC also took a series of measures that made registration continue in various electoral constituencies and at Rafah international crossing point on the Egyptian border and al-Karama Terminal on the Jordanian border.  On the 20th of October 2004, the CEC decided to extend the registration in 10 mobile registration centers in the northern Gaza Strip to be conducted from the 23rd to the 25th of October 2004, due to an Israeli military offensive on the area that ended on the 16th of October 2004.

Despite efforts made by the CEC to encourage citizens to register for the elections, the number of citizens wishing to register was relatively low; this can be attributed to two main factors: the continuous Israeli military attacks on Palestinian civilians in the OPT; and the public feeling that the PNA was not serious in holding elections.

However, in light of the developments in the OPT following the sudden death of the Palestinian President Yasser Arafat on the 11th of November 2004 and the assignment of a date for holding presidential elections, the registration process gained momentum.  On the 11th of November 2004, Mr. Rawhi Fattouh, Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), swore the constitutional oath to be the temporary president of the PNA for a period that would not exceed 60 days, during which free and direct elections would be organized to choose a new president in accordance with Article 37 of the Palestinian Basic Law.  On the 14th of November 2004, Mr. Fattouh issued a presidential decree (Decree 10) specifying the 9th of January 2005 as the date for holding the presidential election.  The CEC took a series of steps in preparation for this election.  Registration was reopened on the 24th of November until the 1st of December 2004 to allow registration of citizens who had not been able to register for the elections in the original period.   The CEC declared that it would publish lists of registered electors of the complementary period later.  Moreover, candidature for the post of the president of the PNA was opened on Saturday, the 20th of November 2004 for 12 days.  Nominations were closed on Wednesday, at midnight, on the 1st of December 2004.

Publication of Initial Electoral Register for Inspection

According to presidential decree 9 of 2004 issued on the 21st of June 2004, “the initial electoral register shall be published for inspection for 5 days starting from the 20th of November.”[38] However, the CEC did commit to this date as the registration process was extended more than once due to Israeli military incursions and the death of President Yasser Arafat.  The initial electoral register was published for one week starting on Wednesday, the 24th of November 2004, when the complementary period of registration started.  The register was published in the registration centers themselves for public inspection.  People could submit claims regarding the register to the Polling Station Commissions, which would decide on them, and the initial electoral register would be amended in accordance with decisions taken by the Polling Station Commissions, according to article 17 of Law 13 of 1995 Relating to Elections.

While the registration of electors continued, the CEC handed lists of registered electors, up to the 13th of October 2004, to the Higher Committee of Local Elections, which organizes the elections of local councils.  On the 22nd of December 2004, Minister of Local Government Jamal al-Shoubaki, Head of the Higher Committee of Local Elections, stated that the electoral registers of 25 towns and villages in the West Bank would be published in the subsequent two days, in the context of preparations for holding elections for local councils of these towns and villages on the 23rd of December 2004.[39] On the 30th of October 2004, the initial electoral register was published for inspection until the 3rd of November 2004.  The register included 150,597 electors for 26 local councils in 11 districts in the West Bank.[40]

Amendment of Law 13 of 1995 Relating to Elections and Accreditation of the Civil Register for Elections

On the 1st of December 2004, President of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) Rawhi Fattouh ratified amendments made to the process of preparing the final electoral register.  According to the amendments, article 15(1) of the law prescribes that “the electoral register being prepared in accordance with the law and the civil register are the accredited registers for the purpose of preparing the final electoral register to decide who has the right of voting and candidature to the Palestinian general elections and the elections of local councils..”  This step was related to the weak registration due to the public feeling that the PNA was not serious in holding general elections.  Most partisan entities contributed to this outcome as they failed to play a major and effective role by urging citizens to register for the elections. A few partisan entities were more active as they raised the awareness of their members and supporters of the importance of political participation.  Following the death of President Yasser Arafat, a genuine desire to hold presidential elections, in accordance with the law, emerged, and a number of partisan entities exerted pressure on the PLC to accredit the civil register for elections, in an attempt to increase the number of electors.

Measures Taken by the CEC to Implement the Amendment

 

Although the aforementioned amendment was criticized by some civil society organizations and partisan entities, and was made contrary to the CEC’s recommendations and legal memoranda, the CEC declared, in a statement published in the three local newspapers on Tuesday, the 7th of December 2004, that it would follow the amendment.  The CEC also declared that it would take a number of measures to ensure the fairness of elections, including the use of electoral ink, which cannot be erased until 24 hours after its use, and the devotion of special ballot centers for the electors listed in the civil register, to ensure that each elector would vote only once.

Final Electoral Register

According to Article 19 of Law 13 of 1995 Relating to Elections, “once the period for claims is finished and the claims filed against the initial register are adjudicated, the electoral register shall be considered definitive or final, and the vote shall be conducted based upon it.”  Each Polling Station Commission “shall display the electoral register at the place of its site to make it known by the public, and shall lodge a copy with the relevant District Election Commission and with the Central election Commission.”  Then, the CEC “shall compile the final electoral register based on the copies of the final electoral registers provided by each Polling Station Commission.”  Article 20 of the same law prescribes that “the electoral register is a public document which shall be open for public inspection,” and “the representative of any partisan entity registered before the Central Election Commission, shall have access to the copies of the electoral register, either through the National Election Office, or through the District Election Offices. Independent candidates shall also have access to the electoral register.”  Even through the period of publication and claims, from the 24th of November to the 1st of December 2004, ended, the CEC has not published the final electoral register.


Evaluation of Registration of Electors

This section includes PCHR’s evaluation of the process of registering the electors.  This evaluation largely depends on PCHR’s observations of Palestinian international and external situations in addition to the monitoring conducted by PCHR on many registration centers in the Gaza Strip.

Timing and the Influence of the Political Environment

A citizen’s decision whether to register or not for elections is an integral part of his/her general political behavior, in particular his/her electoral behavior.  In politics, the electoral behavior is influenced by political and socio-economic factors as much as it is influenced by political developments and culture.  In the Palestinian case, the surrounding political environment plays a major role in deciding citizens’ attitudes towards elections.

The registration of electors for the Palestinian elections was conducted under a very complicated political environment.  The OPT witnessed rapid developments before and during the registration process, which would not encourage citizens to go to registration centers.  Some of these developments are related to attacks by IOF against Palestinian civilians, others are related to the Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s “Disengagement Plan,” while others are related to the Palestinian international situation, which is characterized by security chaos, weakness of the official establishment and the debates over issues such as corruption, reforms and elections.

Israeli Occupation

The registration of electors for the Palestinian elections took place while IOF were increasingly perpetrating serious violations of human rights against Palestinian civilians.  As a result of attacks by IOF, including extra-judicial killings, hundreds of Palestinians were killed.  IOF continued to systematically demolish Palestinian homes, leaving thousands of Palestinian civilians, including children and women, homeless.  In addition, IOF continued to impose a total siege on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, isolating them from the outside world.  In the meantime, IOF had continued to construct the “Annexation Wall” inside the West Bank territory since June 2002.  The construction of this wall aims at illegally annexing some 58% of the total area of the West Bank to Israel.  IOF also continued to arbitrarily detain at least 7000 Palestinians in Israeli jails, subjecting them to torture and cruel and degrading treatment.

IOF have continued to launch attacks on Palestinian civilians, while hopes for a serious political initiative that can give hope to Palestinians for an end to the Israeli occupation, or that would oblige Israel to respect human rights and international humanitarian law, vanished.  As the human rights situation was deteriorating, the Israeli Prime Minster Ariel Sharon proposed his “Disengagement Plan”, under which IOF would be redeployed in the Gaza Strip and parts of the northern West Bank.  Sharon tried to market his plan to the international community as a withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, while in fact, it would maintain the IOF’s control over the Gaza Strip and Sharon would seek to achieve strategic gains in the West Bank.  Debate emerged among Palestinians on whether this plan would be implemented, and if implemented, how it would affect the Palestinian people and the future of the OPT.

While the debate over Sharon’s unilateral “Disengagement Plan” continued, IOF have escalated attacks against the Palestinian people in the recent months, especially in the Gaza Strip.  IOF increasingly moved into Palestinian towns, villages and refugee camps, killed hundreds of Palestinian civilians, demolished hundreds of houses and razed large areas of agricultural land.  Since the registration of electors for the Palestinian elections, IOF have escalated attacks against Palestinian civilians.  The following are the major attacks by IOF in the Gaza Strip during the period of registration:

·      On 7 September 2004, that is 3 days following the beginning of the registration of electors, the Israeli air force attacked a training center of Hamas in al-Shojaeya neighborhood in Gaza City.  The attack killed 14 Palestinians and injured 12 others.

·      On 23 September 2004, IOF moved into Khan Yunis refugee camp and demolished dozens of Palestinian houses.

·      On 25 September 2004, IOF demolished 52 houses in Khan Yunis refugee camp, rendering 350 Palestinians (46 families) homeless.

·      Between 28 September and 16 October 2004, IOF launched a wide scale offensive on the northern Gaza Strip.  During this offensive, IOF reached the edges of the densely populated Jabalya refugee camp.  IOF killed dozens of Palestinian civilians, including many children, demolished dozens of houses, razed hundreds of donums of agricultural land and destroyed the civilian infrastructure of the area.

 

These and other attacks by IOF have seriously impacted on the economic and living conditions of Palestinians, especially as IOF have continued to impose a total siege on the OPT and obstruct the Palestinian efforts for economic development.  Unemployment has mounted to 45%, and the percentage of families living below the poverty line has increased to 75%, and to 82% in the southern Gaza Strip in particular.  In addition, prices of basic goods have sharply increased, which impacted on various segments of the Palestinian society.  These conditions have impacted on the Palestinian political participation, as attacks by IOF before and during the registration of electors created a public mood that did not encourage many citizens to go to registration centers, as elections were not a priority for them.  In addition, attacks by IOF disrupted the registration process as will be detailed later.

Palestinian Internal Situation

Attacks by IOF against Palestinian civilians in the OPT and the blockade of the political process have impacted on all aspects of life in the OPT.  These attacks have had a disastrous impact on the performance of the PNA and its executive, legislature and judiciary.  Palestinian public institutions have been attacked by IOF, and the late Palestinian President Yasser Arafat had been besieged in his compound in Ramallah fro nearly three years.  A number of public institutions were also subject to theft and robbery by IOF.  With regard to the legislature, members of the PLC have not been able to meet in quorum whether in Ramallah or Gaza due to the restrictions imposed by IOF on the movement of Palestinian officials as well as other civilians.  Furthermore, the total siege imposed by IOF on the Palestinian community has disrupted the work of the judiciary as judges and prosecutors are sometimes unable to reach courts.

Corruption has spread in some public institutions and the performance of the PNA has proved inefficient.  The law has been absent, which created an atmosphere of security chaos that has threatened the safety and security of people.  The Palestinian territory witnessed a number of field development before and during the registration of electors.  Before the beginning of the registration of electors, the Palestinian territory witnesses some security developments that impacted on the lives of Palestinians and threatened their safety and security.  Even through these developments were not separate from a series of incidents that took place in the past years, they were the most severe with regard in regard to their impacts.[41]

Furthermore, the presidential decree issued by the late Palestinian President Yasser Arafat concerning the elections did not assign a date for holding general elections.  Consequently, Palestinian citizens were not certain regarding the seriousness of the PNA in holding free and fair elections in the near future, especially as the PNA declared more than once in the past that it would hold elections, but did not adhere to this declaration. [42] This feeling created doubts concerning the feasibility of registration.  Citizens had not been satisfied by the performance of the PNA.

Under these conditions, the CEC should have considered other options to encourage the registration of electors other then the mechanism it followed, according to which citizen would go to registration centers to register for the elections.  The CEC should have also waited until the president of the PNA assign a date for the election before starting with the registration process.

In spite of all these developments, upon the beginning of the registration of electors, a number of Palestinian partisan engaged in the process.  The Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) urged citizens to register for the general and municipal elections, believing that registration in necessary to achieve reforms called for by the movement.  The movement and other Palestinian partisan entities carried out a number of activities to encourage citizens to register.  Statements, writings on walls and meetings were among the methods used by these entities to encourage their members and supported to register, believing that registration is the first step towards reforms.

Following the death of President Yasser Arafat on the 11th of November 2004, calls for holding elections gained momentum.  As soon as Mr. Rawhi Fattouh, Speaker of the PLC swore the constitutional oath to become the temporary president of the PNA for a period that would not exceed 60 days, he issued presidential decree 10 on the 14th of November 2004, calling for holding presidential elections on 9th of January 2005.  The decree also decided the periods of nomination for candidature, the election campaign and the complementary registration of electors for citizens who had not been able to register during the original period of registration.

Disruption of Registration of Electors by IOF Attacks

 

The registration of electors was directly affected by attacks launched by IOF throughout the OPT.  For instance, on the 13th of September 2004, IOF closed 6 registration centers in Jerusalem.[43] Repeated incursions by IOF into Palestinian areas led to temporary closing a number of registration centers, especially in the areas that were subject to these incursions or neighboring areas.  In other cases, a number of registration centers were closed or the number of citizens who wished to register was very small due to particular attacks by IOF, or due to strikes declared following these attacks.  The total siege on the OPT and the restrictions imposed by IOF on the movement of Palestinian civilians remained a major hindrance for the registration of electors.

In the Gaza Strip, incursions, extra-judicial killings and shelling by IOF directly impacted on the registration of electors.  The following are the impacts of attacks by IOF on the registration of electors in each district of the Gaza Strip:

1. Rafah

·      On 15 September 2004, two registration centers, Tal al-Sultan 4 and Tal al-Sultan 5, were moved to another registration center, Tal al-Sultan 3, for 90 minutes due to an incursion by IOF into Tal al-Sultan neighborhood, during which IOF fired at the location of the two registration centers.

·      On 30 September 2004, a temporary registration center in Bilal Ben Rabah Mosque in Tal al-Sultan neighborhood was closed as IOF positioned on neighboring observation towers opened fire at the area.

2. Khan Yunis

·      On 3 September 2004, one day before the beginning of the registration of electors, a registration center, Khuza’a 2, was moved from its location at Khuza’a Basic Coed Scool to the Municipality of Khuzaa as IOF fired at the center.

·      On 6 September 2004, a registration center in al-Qarara village, al-Qarara 1, was closed for two hours, when IOF fired at the center.

·      On 12 September 2004, a registration center in al-Satar al-Gharbi area, Khan Yunis 1, was closed for four hours when IOF opened fire at the center.

·      On 15 September 2004, a registration center in al-Qarara village, al-Qarara 2, was closed for three hours when IOF opened fire at the center.

·      On 20 September 2004, a registration center in al-Qarara village, al-Qarara 1, was closed over the day as IOF opened fire at the center.

·      On 20 September 2004, a registration center in al-Satar al-Gharbi area, Khan Yunis 1, was closed for four hours when IOF opened fire at the center.

·      On 21 September 2004, the same center was moved to another location due to repeated attacks by IOF.

·      On 1 October 2004, a registration center in Khan Yunis refugee camp, Khan Yunis Camp 5, was closed for three hours when IOF opened fire at the center.

·      On 1 October 2004, a registration center in Khan Yunis refugee camp, Khan Yunis Camp 2, was closed for 90 minutes when IOF opened fire at the center.

·      On 3 October 2004, the same center was closed for four hours for the same reason.

·      On 4 October 2004, a registration center in Khan Yunis refugee camp, Khan Yunis Camp 8, was closed for an hour when IOF opened fire at the center.

·      On 5 October 2004, a registration center, Khan Yunis 1, was closed during the day as IOF opened fire at the center.

3. Deir al-Balah

 

·      On 4 September 2004, the only registration center in Wadi al-Salqa village, southeast of Deir al-Balah, was closed for two days due an incursion by IOF into the village.

4. Gaza

·      On 7 September 2004, 6 registration centers were closed over the course of the day due to the mourning for 15 Palestinians killed by an attack by the Israeli air force on a training center of Hamas in al-Shojaeya neighborhood.

5. Northern Gaza

 

From 28 September to 16 October 2004, IOF launched a wide scale offensive on the northern Gaza Strip, during which they reached the edges of Jabalya refugee camp.  IOF killed dozens of Palestinians and injured hundreds of others.  They demolished dozens of houses, razed large areas of agricultural land and destroyed the civilian infrastructure of the area.  From 29 September to 9 October 2004, 17 registration centers in Jabalya, Beit Lahia, Beit Hanoun, the Bedouin Village were closed.  The CEC was forced after 9 October 2004 to merge the closed centers with other centers in the area to preserve the continuation of the registration.  When the Israeli offensive on the northern Gaza Strip ended, the CEC opened 10 registration centers from 23 to 25 October 2004 to allow citizens to register for the elections.

Practices by IOF during the offensive on the northern Gaza Strip, including the closure of the main roads in the Gaza Strip impacted on the registration of electors.  Such restrictions obstructed the transportation of records and documents of registration daily from district election offices to the district office in Gaza City and then to the main office in Ramallah.  The CEC was forced to transport these records and documents in three stages during the period of registration.  Supplies to district election offices were obstructed and members of the CEC were forced to travel on dirt roads to delivers these supplies in order to preserve the integrity of registration.

Transparency and Monitoring of Registration

The registration of electors took place in the presence of local and international observers and agents of partisan entities accredited by the CEC according to the law.  Procedures of accreditation of observers were easy with minimum requirements and conditions, which will be detailed later.  PCHR has not received any major complaints by any parties regarding deprivation it of its right to be accredited as a local or international observation body, in violation of the law or the procedures adopted by the CEC.

Local and International Observation

 

On 3rd of August 2004, one month before the beginning of the registration of electors, the CEC started to receive applications from NGOs to be accredited as observation bodies for the registration.  The CEC assigned 18th of August 2004 as a deadline for receiving applications, but it extended the period to 23rd of August 2004, as it concluded that a number of organizations did not have enough space of time to register.  The CEC took a number of measures to facilitate applications, which were submitted personally or by fax or e-mail.

The number of NGOs that applied to be accredited as observation bodies was 83.  All of these organizations, excluding 3[44] were local.

Observation cards of the observers in the Gaza Strip were delayed until the 3rd of September 2004, one day before the start of the registration of electors.  Due to the closure of the main roads in the Gaza Strip, PCHR was able to deliver the cards for its accredited observers in the southern Gaza Strip only two days later.  Thus, PCHR observers in Rafah and Khan Yunis were not able to practice their job before the 6th of September 2004.

As a date was assigned for the presidential election, the CEC decided to extend the validity of cards of accredited observer, which were supposed to expire on the 31st of December 2004, in order to save time, effort and money.  The CEC decided also to open the door for receiving applications from NGOs to be accredited as observation bodies from the 1st to 15th of December 2004.

Partisan Entities

The CEC started to receive applications for accreditation of partisan entities on the same day it started to receive applications from NGOs.  Ten partisan entities submitted applications to the CEC to accredit its agents, and the CEC approved all of these applications.  The number of accredited agents of partisan entities is 4103 distributed among the ten partisan entities as shown in the following table:

No.

Accredited partisan entity

Number of agents

1.     

Palestinian National Initiative

540

2.     

Palestine Democratic Union – Feda

317

3.     

Palestinian Popular Struggle Front

784

4.     

Palestine Liberation Front

100

5.     

Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine

451

6.     

Islamic Resistance Movement – Hamas

53

7.     

Palestinian Arab Front

595

8.     

Palestinian People Party

571

9.     

Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine

504

10. 

Islamic National Salvation Party

188

Total

4103

The CEC and its staff members dealt positively with observers and agents of partisan entities.  During the registration process, PCHR observers did not face any restrictions or obstructions by the CEC that could have disrupted their work.  The observers recorded positive notes regarding the cooperation of the CEC at registration centers, district election offices or the district election office in Gaza.  The observers did not report about any restrictions imposed on the work of any other observers or agents of partisan entities who were present in many registration centers visited by PCHR observers.

Public Campaign and Awareness Raising for Registration

By the middle of August 2004, the CEC initiated a public campaign to encourage citizens to register for the elections.  This campaign focused on informing citizens about the period of registration and raising their awareness on the importance of registration as a precondition for participation in the elections.  On the 14th of August 2004, the CEC launched this campaign in cooperation with many institutions and universities.  At the beginning, approximately 2500 volunteers from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip participated in the campaign.  Then, the CEC disseminated educational materials, including bulletins and advertising cloths, and prepared television and radio advertisements.  It also published advertisements in local newspapers and used cars equipped with loudspeakers to urge citizens to register for the elections.  According to the CEC, the Educational Department made more than 300,000 posters, 6500 boxes of cleaning tissues, 10,000 radio advertisements and 5000 television advertisements.[45]

The CEC also held several meetings and open dialogues with public figures in various Palestinian neighborhoods, and the Imams of mosques participated in raising the public awareness on the importance of registration as a right and duty.  The Palestinian religious legislation committee issued a statement that urged citizens to register for the elections.

In general, the CEC made great efforts to raise the awareness of citizens on registration and urge them to register.  The CEC’s educational campaign for registration reached every Palestinian house.  According to PCHR’s estimations, the weak desire for registration can never be attributed to the unawareness of registration.  This belief was supported by an opinion poll organized by the Opinion Poll and Survey Center of al-Najah National University in Nablus, whose results were published on 21 September 2004.  According to the results, 93.2% of those who were interviewed said that they knew about the opening of registration centers, while only 6.8% said that they did not know about the opening of these centers.[46]  Taking into consideration that the poll was conducted between 16 and 18 September 2004, that is two weeks following the beginning of registration, and as the registration continued following this period, it is logical to conclude that the percentage of those who did not learn about the opening of registration centers decreased, especially as the public campaign organized by the CEC continued.  According to the same poll, 42.7% said that they had access to explanatory publications on the procedures of registration.

The Registration Period

Law 13 of 1995 Relating to Elections does not decide a period for the registration of electors, but prescribes that calling for elections is done by a presidential decree, which decides a date of the public polling.  A presidential decree is to be issued, deciding among other things, the time of declaration of the electoral register for public inspection.  According to presidential decree 9 of 2004 issued on the 21st of June 2004, the registration of electors would start on the 4th of September 2004, and the initial electoral register would be published for 5 days for public inspection starting from the 20th of November 2004.

The registration of Palestinian electors started on Saturday morning, the 4th of September 2004, and was supposed to be completed by Thursday evening, the 7th of October 2004, according to the CEC’s plans.  However, due to practices by IOF, including the closure of a number of registration centers, especially in Jerusalem and the northern Gaza Strip, and the low number of citizens wishing to register, the CEC was forced to extend the period of registration until Wednesday, the 13th of October 2004.  The CEC also opened two registration centers at Rafah Terminal on the Egyptian border and al-Karama Terminal on the Jordanian border to allow Palestinian citizens who were abroad during the period of registration to register their names in the electoral register.  In addition, the CEC reopened registration centers for complementary registration from the 24th of November to the 1st of December 2004.

PCHR understands that the aim of the extension of the period of registration, necessitated by the hindrances and the problems that faced the process, was to increase the number of electors.  PCHR believes this is justified so long as guarantees were taken to ensure the impartiality of the electoral register.

Efficiency of Registration Centers

In general, most registration centers were efficient in regard to:

1)   Proximity to communities and ease of identification of registration centers.

2)   Suitability of registration centers for disabled persons.

3)   Capacity of registration centers.

Proximity to Communities and ease of Identification of Registration Centers

 

According to PCHR observers’ reports, the registration centers throughout the Gaza Strip were chosen to be close to communities.  It was easy to identify them, as the CEC was careful to place identification boards at their doors.  However, PCHR observers recording negative notes regarding a small number of registrations that lacked the above characteristics.  The following table shows registration centers which were far away from the communities they were supposed to serve:

No.

Name of center

Code of center

Location

District

1.     

Beit Lahia 7

0746

Abu Ubaida Secondary School for Boys

Northern Gaza

2.     

Deir al-Balah 2

0899

Al-Manfalouti Secondary School for Boys

Deir al-Balah

The following table shows registration centers that lacked identification boards:

 

No.

Name of center

Code of center

Location

District

1.     

Beit Lahia 5

0744

Tall al-Za’tar Secondary School for Girls

Northern Gaza

2.     

Beit Lahia 8

0747

Umm al-Fahim Secondary School for Girls

Northern Gaza

3.     

Jabalya Camp 4

0761

Beit Lahia Preparatory School for Girls

Northern Gaza

4.     

Al-Shati Camp 8

0795

Al-Shati Refugees Preparatory School for Girls

Gaza

5.     

Gaza 6

0807

Khalid al-‘Alami Secondary School for Girls

Gaza

6.     

Gaza 64

0865

Zuhair al-‘Alami Secondary School for Boys

Gaza

7.     

Al-Nusairat Camp 8

0881

Al-Nusairat Primary School for Boys “C”

Deir al-Balah

 

Suitability of Registration Centers for Disabled People

 

Most registration centers were suitable for disabled people, in that it was easy for disabled persons to reach and enter these registration centers.  However, PCHR observers reported that 27 registration centers in the Gaza Strip were not suitable for disabled persons and elderly people.  Some of these centers were on upper floors that can be reached only through stairs, and the roads leading to others were not paved for disabled people.  Even in these centers, the registrars dealt positively with disabled people.  For instance, a PCHR observer documented a case in al-Musaddar registration center (code: 0905), in which a registrar went to the entrance of the school, where the center is located, to register three elderly people to avoid troubling them with stepping up to the center.  The following table outlines the registration centers that were not suitable for disabled persons:

No.

Name of center

Code of center

Location

District

1.     

Beit Lahia 3

0742

Al-Shaymaa’ Higher Basic School for Girls

Northern Gaza

2.     

Beit Lahia 5

0744

Tall al-Za’tar Secondary School for Girls

Northern Gaza

3.     

Beit Lahia 7

0746

Abu Ubaida Secondary School for Boys

Northern Gaza

4.     

Al-Shati Camp 5

0792

Al-Shati Coed Primary School

Gaza

5.     

Al-Shati Camp 6

0793

Al-Shati Preparatory School for Girls “B”

Gaza

6.     

Al-Shati Camp 8

0795

Al-Shati Refugees Preparatory School for Girls

Gaza

7.     

Gaza 6

0807

Khalid al-‘Alami Secondary School for Girls

Gaza

8.     

Gaza 9

0810

Zahrit al-Mada’en Secondary School for Girls “A”

Gaza

9.     

Gaza 28

0829

Al-Mu’tasim Billah Basic School for Boys “A”/”B”

Gaza

10. 

Gaza 29

0830

Bashir al-Rayies Secondary School for Girls “A”/”B”

Gaza

11. 

Gaza 30

0831

Al-Farabi Basic School for Girls “A”/”B”

Gaza

12. 

Gaza 35

0836

Al-Karmil Secondary School for Boys

Gaza

13. 

Gaza 53

0854

Al Zaitoun Coed Basic School

Gaza

14. 

Gaza 58

0859

Al-Shiekh E’jlien Higher Basic School for Girls

Gaza

15. 

Gaza 64

0865

Zuhair al-‘Alami Secondary School for Boys

Gaza

16. 

Gaza 65

0866

Al-Nile Secondary School for Boys “A”/”B”

Gaza

17. 

Gaza 66

0867

Ali Bin Abi Talib Higher Basic School for Girls

Gaza

18. 

Al-Musaddar

0905

Ibin Zaidoun School

Deir al-Balah

19. 

Deir al-Balah Camp 2

0893

Deir al-Balah Preparatory School for Boys

Deir al-Balah

20. 

AL-Boreij Camp 2

0884

Al-Boreij Preparatory School for Boys

Deir al-Balah

21. 

AL-Boreij Camp 4

0886

Al-Briej Primary School for Boys “A”

Deir al-Balah

22. 

Al-Nusairat Camp 1

0874

Al-Nusairat Preparatory School for Boys “C”

Deir al-Balah

23. 

Al-Nusairat Camp 9

0882

Al-Nusairat Preparatory School for Girls “C”

Deir al-Balah

24. 

Khan Yunis Camp 6

0915

Khan Younis Preparatory School for Girls “A”

Khan Yunis

25. 

Khuza’a 2

0953

Municipality pf Khuza’a

Khan Yunis

26. 

Rafah Camp 8

0981

Rafah Coed Primary School “A”

Rafah

27. 

Rafah 12

0973

Al-Quds Secondary School for Girls

Rafah

 

Capacity of Registration Centers

Most registration centers were appropriate in regard to their capacity. However, a number of registration centers were small in area and hardly absorbed registrars, such as Gaza 35 (code 0836).  This might be attributed to the lack of sufficient resources and the non-cooperation with the CEC.  For example, a room in a kindergarten for the Municipality of al-Nusairat was supposed to be devoted for a registration center, al-Nusairat Camp 3, but the staff members of the kindergarten refused to hand over the room, so the CEC was forced to move the center to another place, which is very hot, iron-roofed and used as a garage for bulldozers.

Registration Teams

 

Article 16 of Bylaw No. ( ) of 2004 Regarding Registration for the Presidential and Legislative Elections prescribes that “registration staff, at every registration center, shall be comprised of three members: a center manager and two registration officers.”[47] Accordingly, the CEC appointed a center manager and two registration officers for each registration center in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.  The CEC appointed at least one female center manager or registration officer in each registration center, taking into consideration the nature of the Palestinian society as an Islamic society, where some women are veiled and cannot reveal their faces to men for identity verification.[48] However, as there was a need to open a number of new centers in some areas, the CEC was forced to decrease the number of staff members in a number of registration centers to two registration officers or even one.  In some centers, the center manager was present alone in the center, such as Gaza 43 (code: 0844) at Mustafa Hafith Higher Basic School for Girls.[49] A number of mobile registration centers were also opened without any female staff members being present.  It would have been better if the female staff members were distributed in a way that could ensure the presence of at least one female staff member in each center, even if it was a mobile one.

Commitment to Official Work Hours

 

PCHR observers did not record any notes regarding the commitment of registration staffs to the work hours decided by the CEC, unless there were emergency circumstances, such as what happened when Wadi al-Salqa registration center (code 0906) was closed on Sunday, the 19th of September 2004, until 12:00 due to an incursion by IOF into the village.  Another center, al-Qarara 1 (code 0907) was closed on the 2nd of October 2004 due to a strike declared in the Gaza Strip in solidarity with the northern Gaza Strip, which was subject to a wide scale offensive by IOF.  The same center was closed on the preceding day due to an incursion by IOF into the area. In addition, a registration center, Khan Yunis Camp 5 (code: 0914), was closed when IOF shelled Khan Yunis refugee camp.

Verification of Electors’ Qualifications

In general, staff members of registration centers adhered to the rules and procedures prescribed by the Bylaw No. ( ) of 2004 Regarding Registration for the Presidential and Legislative Elections to verify the qualifications of citizens wishing to register, with regard to citizenship, age,[50] place of residence and the identities of the applicants, including veiled women. PCHR observers documented a number of cases in which staff members of registration centers adhered to these rules and procedures even when registering public figures or persons whom they know well.  For instance, on Monday, 6 September 2004, a member of the PLC, Yousef al-Shanti went to a registration center, Gaza 35 (code: 0836) at al-Karmil Secondary School for Boys, to register.  When he was asked by the center manager to show his identity card, he showed his passport and a photocopy of his identity card.  The center manager refused to register him, so al-Shanti informed the manager that he is a member of the PLC.  The manger refused and insisted that al-Shanti must bring his identity card.  Al-Shanti left the center, threatening that he would complain to the CEC officials.

The identity of veiled women was verified by women.  However, PCHR observers documented a number of cases in which registration officials did not adhere to the rules and procedures in this regard.  For instance, on the 5th of September 2004, a veiled woman was registered at a registration center in al-Nusairat refugee camp, al-Nusairat Camp 2 (code 0875) at al-Nusairat Preparatory School for Girls, without her identity having been verified.

At the registration center in Gaza Central Prison, Gaza 68 (code: 0869), the CEC accredited records of the administration of the prison to register the prisoners.  PCHR sent a letter to the district office of the CEC in Gaza calling for explanation of the reasons for this step, in violation of article 6 of Bylaw No. ( ) of 2004 Regarding Registration for the Presidential and Legislative Elections, which requires that  Palestinian citizenship be verified through the applicant’s identity card, and article 7 related to the place of residence.  In its response, the CEC stated that it had registered 143 prisoners who met the requirements of the law out of 390 prisoners.  The CEC added that it depended on information provided by official records that included numbers of identity cards, because it did not want to deprive these prisoners of their right to vote, as the administration of the prison asserted that it would face difficulties in getting the identity cards out of the records and handing them to the prisoners.

Access of Unauthorized Persons into Registration Centers

Article 19 of Bylaw No. ( ) of 2004 Regarding Registration for the Presidential and Legislative Elections prescribes that “The following individuals and parties may have access to registration centers and oversee the registration process:

1. Registration staff, members of the electoral district commission and CEC staff.

2. Registration applicants.

3. Accredited agents of political parties.

4. Local and international accredited observers.

5. Accredited journalists and media representatives.

6. CEC special guests.

7. The police as established with the provisions set forth in this Bylaw.”

In all these cases, these persons must have special cards issued by the CEC, explaining their identities and the reasons of their presence in registration centers.  This step certainly aims at ensuring order at registration and the impartiality of registration of electors.

Article 20 of the same Bylaw prohibits entry of all kinds of weapons into registration centers.  It also prohibits “distribution or posting of propaganda materials inside registration centers” and “political or propaganda debates.”

 

During their observations, PCHR observers documented 18 cases in which these two articles were violated, as unauthorized persons were present inside registration centers.  In six of these cases, there were persons who completed their registration, but remained inside centers waiting for their friends or relatives who were still registering without staff members having been drawn their attention that they had to wait outside or leave the centers.  When a number of mobile registration centers were opened, the presence of unauthorized persons inside those centers was inevitable, as those centers were located in the street or in family compounds.  In addition, PCHR observers documented 12 cases in which armed persons or cops responsible for protecting registration centers were present inside registration centers.  These practices violate the both two articles.  For instance, at approximately 10:30 on Sunday, 19 September 2004, the Governor of Khan Yunis Husni Z’orob went to a registration center in the governorate, Khan Yunis 12 (code: 0903).  He was accompanied by his bodyguards and a number of officials of the governorate.  When the governor entered the registration center, a cop guarding the center intercepted the bodyguards and told them that they were prohibited from entering the center.  Immediately, the governor intervened and debated with the cop.  The two insulted each other and the governor beat the cop.  The quarrel escalated as the cop left the center and brought some of his relatives.  There were threats to use weapons, but the problem was solved one hour later and registration was resumed.

Even though such violation might have recurred in other registration centers at other times, PCHR observers did not record any notes that could have disrupted registration.

Registration Forms

 

The CEC prepared a special form to be filled by registration officials with personal data, information about the place of residence and information about supporting documents.  For its importance and influence on the impartiality of the registration of electors, a significant part of Bylaw No. ( ) of 2004 Regarding Registration for the Presidential and Legislative Elections is devoted for the process of completing registration forms (article 27), and numbering them serially.  These forms are printed in books each contains 100 forms, and each 6 books are backed together.  Each registration center is provided by a number of packages that suits its capacity; this number does not exceed 5 as a registration center cannot register more than 3000 electors (article 29).  Each book of registration is kept in a tamper evident bag and the center manager submits the tamper evident bags to the supervisor when he/she visits the center (article 36). The shipment of tamper evident bags is to be handed to the president officer at the data entry center (article 42).  Thus, the procedures prescribed by the Bylaw are clear and comprehensive, so that adherence to them can ensure accuracy for the registration of electors.

PCHR observers paid a special attention to the extent of commitment to the above procedures.  They recorded the following notes in this regards:

·      Registration books were always available in enough numbers in all registration centers visited by PCHR observers, excluding one case documented on 25 September 2004, in which registration books were not available in a mobile registration center located in the Abu Hassira family’s compound in Gaza, where registration officers did not have registration books.  The supervisor had these books, so he was called to bring them to the center.  This problem disrupted the registration of electors in aforementioned center.

·      Completion of the registration forms was conducted in accordance with the procedures prescribed by the Bylaw, and PCHR observers did not record any notes in this regard during their visits to registration centers.

·      Staff members of registration centers adhered to the procedures related to completed registration forms and handing them to the supervisor to be transferred to the district election offices.

 

Keeping Electoral Materials

Bylaw No. ( ) of 2004 Regarding Registration for the Presidential and Legislative Elections prescribes the procedures that must be followed to keep electoral materials in paragraphs 5 and 6 of article 33; “the center manager shall be responsible for ensuring that the sensitive materials are kept safe. The manager shall also double check the security measures including the arrangement of such materials, safe-guarding them in a secure place.  If necessary, the manager may keep such materials at his/her own residence.”  During their visits to registration centers, PCHR observers did not record any note this regard, as most registration centers had safe places to keep electoral materials.  In a few cases, center managers were forced to keep such materials at their own residences.

Shipment of Tamper Evident Bags

Articles 40 and 41 of Bylaw No. ( ) of 2004 Regarding Registration for the Presidential and Legislative Elections prescribe the procedures of shipment of tamper evident bags to district election offices and then to the date entry center.  Article 41, paragraph 2 prescribes that “a shipment of the complete bags shall be transported daily from the district office to the data entry center unless other indications are issued by the National Elections Office.” When PCHR referred to the National Election Office with regard to the procedures followed to the shipment of tamper evident bags, it responded that the shipment was carried out in accordance with procedures decided by the CEC, and that it was not necessary to transport shipments of tamper evident bags daily.  Registration books were transported to the district election offices upon their completion and then to the data entry center.  It also asserted that it did not follow any procedures other than those decided by the logistics department of the CEC.


CEC’s Reponses to PCHR’s Notes and Inquiries

PCHR contacted the CEC through its contact officer either verbally or in written letters.  PCHR observers also played a major role in communications between PCHR and the CEC, as they gave verbal notes to managers of registration centers or to the district election offices.

The CEC positively cooperated with accredited local observation organizations in general, and with PCHR in particular, with regard to responding to inquiries and notes.


Initial Electoral Register

The initial electoral register was published on the 24th of November 2004, four days following the date specified by presidential decree (no number) of 2004.  According to the decree, the initial electoral register was supposed to be published for 5 days starting from the 20th of November 2004.  On the 22nd of November 2004, PCHR sent a letter to the CEC inquiring about the reasons of delayed publication of the initial electoral register.  On the 25th of December 2004, PCHR received a response from the CEC, which stated that it informed the late Palestinian President Yasser Arafat that it would not be able to publish the initial electoral register on time since it extended the period of registration of electors, the non-completion of registration of electors in Jerusalem and the non-assignment of a date for elections.  President Arafat responded positively to the CEC’s demand to postpone the publication of the initial electoral register.  When President Arafat died and the 9th of January 2005 was decided as the date of the presidential election, the CEC decided to publish the register for inspection in accordance with Law 13 of 1995 Relating to Elections.  PCHR understands this delay in publishing the electoral register, especially in light of field developments in the OPT, which played a major role in disrupting the registration.  As registration centers were opened from the 24th of November to the 1st of December 2004 for complementary registration, the CEC was supposed to publish the electoral register of the complementary period of registration upon the completion of this registration, but it has not so far done so.

The desires to register largely depended on activities carried out by partisan entities to encourage their members and supporters to register.  A number of partisan entities were active in this regard, while other were passive, thus the number of registered electors was low in spite of the series of steps taken by the CEC to encourage citizens to register. The internal and external situation also impacted on the registration of electors.


Dealing with Rejections

 

PCHR did not receive any complaints regarding the way the CEC dealt with rejections it received.  In this regard, the CEC demonstrated full cooperation and commitment to the provisions of Law 13 of 1995 Relating to Elections.

Amendment of Law 13 and Accreditation of the Civil Register

 

The electoral register prepared by the CEC was integral despite a number of irrelevant notes.  The amendment made to Law 13 and the accreditation of the civil register together with the electoral register, pushed PCHR to observe the procedures followed to implement this amendment.  PCHR believes that the procedures followed in this regard seem convincing and adhering to the law, even though there was an opposition for this amendment since it could affect the impartiality of the electoral register.

Final Electoral Register

The CEC has not so far published the final electoral register for public inspection in violation of articles 19 and 20 of Law 13 of 1995 Relating to Elections.  PCHR sent two letters to the CEC on 15 and 23 December 2004 inquiring about the date of publication of the final electoral register, as it is a basic element on which the elections depend.  In addition, this register constitutes the outcome of the registration of electors, which took place from 4 September to 1 December 2004.[51] PCHR has not received any response from the CEC so far and the final electoral register has not been published yet.

Conclusions

1.      The CEC made great efforts to register the voters and prepare an accurate electoral register as a basis for holding free and impartial elections.  The CEC’s performance was characterized by transparency and good management, planning and readiness to cope with hindrances and find immediate solutions for the problems that arose, in accordance with the law and the CEC’s regulations.

2.      By the end of the extended period, the percentage of registered voters mounted to 71%, while it was 61.37% at the end of the original period of registration, 4th of September to the 13th of October 2004, including occupied East Jerusalem. With the exclusion of Jerusalem, the percentage of registered voters is 67%.  Although the number of registered citizens who have the right to vote is not clear, after deleting names of those who will not reach the age of 18 on the day of the ballot, the percentage of registered voters is low, especially if we take into consideration the steps taken by the CEC to urge people to register and raise their awareness on the importance of this process and political participation.

3.      The main problem is related to the method pursued for voter registration, which depended on self-registration of voters, that is, they had to go to registration centers to register their names.  This method is followed in many countries, but its success requires two things, among others: 1) the existence of an appropriate and encouraging political environment; and 2) a clear timetable for the election process, including the date of polling.  In countries that witness democratic reform, the state intervenes at this stage and the registration process is not solely centered on self-initiative.

4.      In the Palestinian case, it is necessary to rely on the direct and effective interest of the state in the process of registration, especially under the current situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT).  Although the method adopted by the CEC to prepare the electoral register is followed in a number of countries in the world, the CEC should have followed another mechanism which could ensure the inclusion of names of all citizens in the electoral register.

5.      PCHR closely monitored subsequent legislative developments, particularly the amendment made to article 15 of Law 13 of 1995 Relating to Elections, which is concerned with the electoral register.  According to the amendment, the civil register will be accredited together with the electoral register prepared by the CEC.  In the Palestinian case, PCHR believes that there if the motivation of this change is simply to increase the number of voters then it is to be welcomed.  However the process which has been used will require further monitoring to ensure that improprieties do not result from the amendment to the law.

6.      PCHR appreciates the legitimate concerns regarding the accreditation of the civil register. PCHR has focused on the mechanism followed by the CEC to implement this amendment.  According to PCHR’s information and observations regarding the steps that have been taken, PCHR believes that these steps have been positive.  PCHR hopes that the goals of this amendment have been achieved so that all those who have the right to vote can exercise this right to ensure the impartiality of the election process.

7.      PCHR calls on the CEC to publish the lists of those who registered in the extended period of registration and the final electoral register according to Law 13 which asserts that it is necessary to publish the final electoral register; Article 20 of the law considers the electoral register “a public document which shall be open for public inspection.”  The publication of the final electoral register is the fruit of efforts made by the CEC in the registration process which was carried out over several months, during which the CEC made efforts to urge citizens to register in order to ensure their right to participate in the elections.

8.       PCHR calls for immediately establishing district election commissions, which did not exist during the registration period.  Although district election commissions are entitled according to article 13 of Law 13 of 1995 to supervise the preparation and formation of the initial and final electoral register, PCHR believes that the non-existence of these commissions did not negatively impact on the registration of voters, since the law prescribes that rejections are to be directly submitted from the ballot committee to the CEC.


[1] See page 62 of this report regarding the CEC’s response to a PCHR’s inquiry about reasons of postponing the publication of the preliminary electoral register on 20 November as had been already decided.

[2] The CEC issued a statement in the local newspapers on 7 December 2004, explaining that the accreditation of the civil register came in contrast with the CEC’s recommendations, which it provided in several meetings and legal memoranda.  However, the CEC asserted that it would abide to the amended law, so it took a series of steps to ensure the impartiality of the election process, which will be detailed later.

[3] Goodwin-Gill, Guy S., Free and Fair Elections: International Law and Practice.

[4] Ibid., referring to the United Kingdom which follows this mechanism.

[5] Ibid., referring to Denmark which depends on the civil register prepared by local authorities.

[6] The registration of electors already started on 12 November 1995.  For details, see pages 13-14 of this report.

[7] In violation of the law, this was not the same presidential decree that called for the elections.

[8] On 5 March 1996, presidential decree 3 of 1996 related the Central Election Commission was issued.  According to the decree, a permanent CEC was established and Mr. Mahmoud Abbas was nominated as its head and 8 Palestinian lawyers and academicians as members.

[9] The CEC, Democracy in Palestine: Palestinian General Elections of the President of the Palestinian National Authority and Members of the Palestinian Legislative Council of 1996, the CEC, 1997.

[10] Ibid.

[11] For more details about observation of the Palestinian elections of 1996 by PCHR, see General Elections, January 1996: A Documentation of the Local Observation Experience in the Gaza Strip, Series Study 11, Gaza: PCHR, September 1997.

[12] Law 5 of 1996 related to elections of local councils.

[13] The daily local al-Ayyam, 24 May 2002.

[14] The daily local al-Hayat al-Jadeeda, 18 May 2002.

[15] The daily al-Ayyam, 28 May 2002.

[16] A number of Palestinian officials stated to local newspapers that a presidential decree was issued assigning 20 January 2003 as a date of holding election, but PCHR has not found any presidential decree in this regard in the official gazette of the PNA and the three local newspapers.

[17] The daily local al-Ayyam, 23 December 2002.

[18] Due to the restrictions imposed by IOF on the freedom of movement, members of the CEC from the Gaza Strip: Judge Ishaq Muhanna; Judge Mazen Sisalem; and Attorney Ibrahim As-Saqqa, were not able to travel to Ramallah to attend the meeting, so the meeting was held in Ramallah and Gaza using the video conference technique.

[19] The daily local al-Ayyam, 12 November 2002.

[20] For instance, see the statement of Mr. Ahmed Qurai, the then Speaker of the PLC, published in daily local newspapers on 28 November 2002, and the statement of Dr. Nabil Shaat regarding the need to take a decision to postpone the elections, the daily local al-Ayyam, 11 December 2002.

[21] The daily local al-Ayyam, 21 December 2002.

[22] Palestinian News Agency (Wafa), 22 December 2002.

[23] The Quartet consists of the United Nations, the United States, the European Union and Federal Russia

[24] The daily local al-Quds, 5 May 2003.

[25] The daily local al-Quds, 4 June 2003.

[26] The daily local al-Hayat al-Jadeeda, 5 June 2003.

[27] The daily local al-Quds, 6 June 2003.

[28] The daily local al-Ayyam, 14 November 200.

[29] The daily local al-Quds, 11 May 2004.

[30] The daily local al-Quds, 25 June 2004.

[31] On 22 June 2004, PCHR sent a letter to all members of the PLC in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip including its notes on this law.  For more details, see PCHR’s web page: www.pchrgaza.org.

[32] As the number of citizens wishing to register was low, the CEC decided to extend the period of registration until 13 October 2004.

[33] The CEC, press release, 12 December 2004, www.elections.ps.

[34] Article 48, paragraph 1, of Law 13 of 1995 Relating to Elections prescribes that “any partisan entity seeking to participate in the elections must register as such before the Minister of Interior.” Article 49, paragraph, prescribes that “applications for registration shall be submitted to the Central Election Commission.”

[35] See the CEC’s web site: www.elections.ps.

[36] The ballot center in Gaza Central Prison (0869) was among the centers that were visited by PCHR.

[37] PCHR organized two workshops to discuss available mechanisms to encourage Palestinian citizens to register for the elections.  The two workshops were organized in coordination with the electoral constituencies of Gaza and Khan Yunis.  The first workshop was held at PCHR’s branch offices in Khan Yunis on the 13th of September 2004, whereas the other one was held at PCHR’s main offices in Gaza City on the 21st of September 2004.  On the 19th of September 2004, PCHR’s staff members went collectively to a registration center in Gaza City to register for the elections.

[38]Palestinian Facts, the official gazette of the PNA, issue 50, 29 August 2004.

[39] See the statement in the daily al-Ayyam, 23 October 2004.  Mr. al-Shoubaki had already declared that these elections would be held on 9 December 2004, but they were postponed to 23 December.  He stated that the CEC extended the period of registration of electors and the delivery of electoral registers was delayed.  He added that there was a need to have a period of 45 following the publication of electoral registers to hold elections according to the law.

[40] The daily al-Ayyam, 31 October 2004.

[41] For more details on this issue, see “Waiting the Unlikely”, PCHR Position Paper on the PNA Reforms, 22 June 2002.

[42] Even partial elections to fill vacant memberships in the PLC have not been held.  Following the resignation of Dr. Haidar Abul Shafi from the PLC, his position has remained vacant as no partial election has been held.  In addition, 3 members of the PLC died and their positions have remained vacant.

[43] For details, see PCHR’s press release on 21 September 2004.

[44] The three international organizations are: Cric Centro Interventoe Cooperazione; National Democratic Institute; and Groppo Volontariato Civile (GVC).

[45] See the CEC’s web page: www.elections.ps/public/annex.pdf.

[46] The sample consisted of 1360 persons who are 18 years old or over.

[47] Article 29, paragraph 2, of Law 13 of 1995 Relating to Elections prescribes that “each Polling Station Commission shall consist of 4 officials appointed by the Central Election Commission, following the proposal made by the relevant District Election Commission; one of its members shall act as its President”.

[48] With regard to veiled women, article 27, paragraph 6, of Bylaw No. ( ) of 2004 Regarding Registration for the Presidential and Legislative Elections prescribes that “in the event that a woman wearing a veil applies to be registered, one of the female staff members at the registration center shall verify her identity. If the registration staff is all male, one of the women present in the center may be requested to verify the identity of the applicant.  If not, the veiled woman shall be requested to uncover her face for a short time in order to verify her identity.  Alternatively, the woman wearing the veil may come back to register at a later time.”

[49] Article 29, paragraph 3, of Law 13 of 1995 Relating to Elections prescribes that “a number of substitutes for the members of the Polling Station Commissions shall also be appointed by the Central Election Commission, following the proposal made by the relevant District Election Commission.”

[50] Article 7 of Law 13 of 1995 Relating to Elections prescribes that “any person who meets the following requirements shall be qualified to exercise the right to vote: .. b. To be 18 years of age or older on the day of the vote..” However, as the registration of electors started early without deciding a date for elections, the CEC allowed in those who are 17 years of age or older on the last day of registration for the elections.  Names of the those who did not reach 18 years of age on the day of elections would be deleted from the final electoral register. 

[51] The registration of electors continued from the 4th of September to the 13th of October 2004.  Then, registration centers were closed, while registration continued in two registration centers at Rafah Terminal on the Egyptian border and al-Karama Terminal on the Jordanian border.  When IOF withdrew from the northern Gaza Strip, the CEC opened a number of registration centers in the areas from the 23rd to the 25th of October 2004.  Registration centers were reopened from the 24th of November to the 1st of December 2004 for complementary registration.