PCHR believes that elections are the essence of democracy – democracy means a representative government of the people chosen by them through free and fair elections.
Independent monitoring over an electoral process can ensure fairness, transparency and credibility before the electorate, candidates, partisan entities and other local and international bodies. PCHR has closely monitored all stages of the presidential election in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) and carried out a wide scale campaign to monitor on the ground the electoral process in the Gaza Strip. PCHR’s election monitoring programme constitutes a major part of our work on the Palestinian agenda and forms part of our continued support for democratic reform in the OPT.
Our monitoring campaign commenced with monitoring the registration of electors by the Palestinian Central Election Commission (CEC) in the last quarter of 2004. This monitoring was on a smaller scale than future monitoring activities and was carried out by PCHR staff. PCHR’s response to this initial registration of voters was the result of questions of the commitment of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) to hold elections in the near future as no date for holding elections had been announced.
In November 2004, Interim President Fattouh announced 9 January 2005 as the date for presidential election throughout the OPT. In light of this, PCHR intensified efforts to prepare a wide scale campaign to monitor all stages of presidential election, including election campaigning, polling and counting of votes.
PCHR recruited approximately 200 observers from a pool of roughly 2000 individuals who had already received training from PCHR on democracy and human rights to act as election observers. Further, in light of our belief in the importance of civil society supporting democratic reform in general and holding free and fair elections in particular, PCHR partnered with a number of other civil society groups to further strengthen monitoring of the elections. Such partnerships were initially with Palestine Bar Association, Women’s Affairs Centre and Cana’an Pedagogical Institute, but subsequently another 23 civil society groups joined PCHR’s monitoring campaign.
PCHR trained the observers on all aspects of the election law and the electoral process and procedures of the CEC. The observers were given a Code of Conduct and trained about reporting. PCHR submitted applications to the CEC to accredit 194 individuals as observers, in addition to 18 of our staff members who had been already accredited by the CEC to monitor the registration of electors. The CEC accredited all observers and issued observation cards. A few days before holding the presidential election, 75 observers from al-Dameer Association for Human Rights joined PCHR’s monitoring campaign, thus increasing the number of observers to 287.
Parallel to its efforts at the local level, PCHR made intensive efforts to coordinate with a number of international organizations to encourage them to participate in monitoring the election. PCHR understands the importance of international observation to ensure a free and fair election. A number of international partner organizations sent delegations including from the International Commission of Jurists, International Federation for Human Rights, Christian Aid and United Civilians for Peace.
PCHR highly appreciated the constructive cooperation on the part of civil society organizations that greatly contributed to the monitoring campaign of Palestinian presidential election. Such cooperation constituted a model for joint civil society activities and cooperation that PCHR would like to continue in any future elections, including the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC). The cooperation also demonstrated the strong support of civil society organizations for democratic reform and in particular their commitment to free, fair and periodic elections in the PNA.
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