Palestinian Centre for Human Rights
Date: 28 January 2005
Time: 13:00 GMT
Preliminary Evaluation of Monitoring Over Palestinian Local Elections
On Thursday, 27 January 2005, Palestinian electors in 10 local communities went to polling centers to vote in the first local elections to be held in the Gaza Strip since a long time. By holding elections in these10 communities, the first stage of elections of Palestinian local councils, which included elections of additional 26 local councils in the West Bank on 23 December 2004, ended. Other stages of local elections will be held in the next months to include the remaining Palestinian local councils throughout the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Elections of local councils are a very important stage in the Palestinian political life, and have been waited for long. We hope that these elections will end the policy of appointment of local councils adopted by the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) since 1994. These elections have a special importance as all Palestinian political parties participate in them. They enjoy a public consensus and are supported by all Islamic and nationalist political powers, including those which boycotted the Palestinian presidential election that was held on 9 January 2005, and the first general elections under the PNA which were held in 1996.
The local elections are held in accordance with Law 5 of 1996 and its amendments related to the elections of local councils. They are supervised by the Higher Committee for Local Elections, whose members are appointed according to the aforementioned law by a decree that is issued by the president of the PNA. This Committee is head by Minister of Local Government. PCHR has criticized the existence of this Committee as there is a parallel committee – Central Election Commission (CEC) – which supervises the presidential and parliamentary elections, calling for establishing one national body according to the constitution to supervise both the general and local elections. Under Law 5 of 2004 enacted on 1 December 2004 amending Law 5 of 1996, the High Committee for Local Elections is abolished and replaced by the CEC, but it will continue its duties for one year. Accordingly, the Higher Committee for Local Elections is the legal body which is responsible to organize and supervise the current local elections.
PCHR has always supported initiatives to hold free and fair elections under the PNA. PCHR has welcomed holding elections for any local council, but called upon the PNA to reconsider holding these elections at stages and hold other stages of the elections in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip at once, as the environment was appropriate to hold these elections in the past few weeks.
The latest elections were held in for local councils of 10 communities, which vary in their area, population and the number of qualified electors. These local councils are of: Beit Hanoun (13 members) in Northern Gaza; al-Zawaida (13 members), al-Musaddar (9 members), Deir al-Balah (15 members) and al-Maghazi (13 members) in Central Gaza; Khuza’a (11 members) and Bani Suhaila (13 members) in Khan Yunis; and al-Shouka (11 members) and al-Nasser (11 members) in Rafah. According to the Higher Committee of Local Elections, 414 candidates, including 68 women (16.4%), competed for 118 seats in these councils. Law 5 of 2004 was amended to ensure positive discrimination for women; article 28 of the Law prescribes that “wherever women are nominated for candidature, the representation of women in local councils must not be less than two seats to be afforded to those who win the highest number of votes among female candidates.”
In a continuation of monitoring of Palestinian elections, PCHR has monitored all stages of the elections of 10 local councils in the Gaza Strip. PCHR has recruited 80 well-trained observers to monitor the polling and counting of votes in the elections of these councils on Thursday, 27 January 2005. These observers monitored the elections in the 48 polling centers that consist of 167 poling stations.
During the day, many electors impressively went to polling centers to vote in the elections, reflecting the public support enjoyed by these elections. Despite the current severe conditions they live due to the continuous attacks and closure by Israeli occupation forces, Palestinians have demonstrated again their determination to participate in the elections to select their local leaders after they had selected their president. According to initial statistics declared by the Higher Committee for Local Elections, 72% of qualified electors, whose number is estimated at 83,700 (85% of those who are registered in the electoral register prepared by the CEC and 30% of those who are listed in the civil register) participated in these elections. The elections were held in a transparent atmosphere as the candidates or their clients, observers and media representatives were present. PCHR observers reported that they were able to monitor all stages of polling and counting of votes in all polling stations they visited.
According to preliminary conclusions of monitoring, which amounted to a comprehensive survey of all polling stations, the elections took place peacefully and impressively, reflecting high-levels of organization. There were a number of violations, especially by supporters of a number of candidates, which caused chaos that led to temporary closure of a number of polling stations. There were also a number of violations by the bodies supervising the elections. However, these violations did not damage the essence of the electoral process. These violations will be highlighted in an evaluation report on the monitoring of polling and counting of votes to be published by PCHR in the next few days.
PCHR is satisfied by the way all stages of polling and counting of votes took place and congratulates those who won the elections. PCHR also congratulates the Palestinian people for holding the elections and the triumph of democracy and law to promote peaceful transition of authority through polling boxes. Furthermore, PCHR highly appreciates all efforts made to ensure success for these elections, especially the role played by the Higher Committee for Local Elections to impressively organize these elections, the role played by local and international observers in monitoring these elections, which created an atmosphere of fairness and transparency in all stages of the electoral process. PCHR hopes that the democratic process will be completed by holding elections for the remaining Palestinian local councils and for the Palestinian Legislative Council. PCHR hopes also that this triumph of democracy will be an element of power for the Palestinian people towards realizing their legitimate rights to end the occupation and establish an independent democratic state.
For more information please call PCHR office in Gaza, Gaza Strip, on +972 8 2824776 – 2825893