Palestinian presidential election, 2005

Palestinian presidential election, 2005

Infobox Election
election_name = Palestinian presidential election, 1996
country = Palestine
type = presidential
ongoing = no
previous_election = Palestinian general election, 1996
previous_year = 1996
next_election = Next Palestinian general election
next_year = Next
election_date = January 9, 2005


candidate1 = Mahmoud Abbas
party1 = Fatah
popular_vote1 = 501,448
percentage1 = 62.52%



candidate2 = Mustafa Barghouti
party2 = Independent (politician)|Independent
popular_vote2 = 156,227
percentage2 = 19.48%

title = President
before_election = Rawhi Fattouh
before_party = Fatah
after_election = Mahmoud Abbas
after_party = Fatah
The 2005 Palestinian presidential election — the first to be held since 1996 — took place on January 9, 2005 in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Voters elected PLO chairman Mahmoud Abbas as the new President of the Palestinian Authority to replace Yasser Arafat, who died on November 11, 2004.

Seven candidates contested the election. Abbas won over 62% of the votes cast, with independent Mustafa Barghouti coming second, on just under 20%, and the remaining candidates far behind.

The election was boycotted by Hamas and Islamic Jihad. In the Gaza Strip, where Hamas is strongest, it is estimated that about half of the eligible voters voted.

Early stages of the campaign: nomination and withdrawal of Marwan Barghouti

Two weeks after the death of Arafat, Fatah nominated former PNA prime minister Mahmoud Abbas (also known as Abu Mazen) as its candidate, despite his relative lack of popular appeal. Palestinian Legislative Council member and Fatah leader in the West Bank Marwan Barghouti, who was in prison in Israel after being convicted for a number of intifada killings, suggested that he might run, inspiring considerable speculation about his prospects. He was seen as the only candidate who could hope to compete seriously against Abbas. However, his proposed candidacy met with resistance from Fatah activists.

After successive contradictory announcements, Marwan Barghouti declared his candidacy just before the registration deadline expired but then retired from the race on December 12 after discussions between his representatives and the Fatah leadership. With his withdrawal, Mahmoud Abbas was seen as the clear favourite, with Mustafa Barghouti in second place.

Opinion polls before Marwan Barghouti withdrew his candidacy suggested that the contest would largely be a two-horse race between him and Mahmoud Abbas. Details of some of these polls are as follows:

* Abbas 44% / Marwan Barghouti 46% (±3%) (Development Studies Program, Bir Zeit University)
* Abbas 40% / Marwan Barghouti 38% (±3%) (Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research)
* Abbas 40% / Marwan Barghouti 22% (±3%) (Palestinian Center for Public Opinion)

Final list of candidates

* Mahmoud Abbas - "Palestine Liberation Organisation". Former Prime Minister and current chairman of the PLO, endorsed by the Fatah Revolutionary Council on November 25, 2004.
* Abdel Halim al-Ashqar - "independent".
* Sayyid Barakah - "independent".
* Mustafa Barghouti - "independent". A democracy activist and head of the Palestinian National Initiative. His candidacy was supported by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Not to be confused with his cousin Marwan Barghouti.
* Taysir Khalid - "Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine"
* Bassam al-Salhi - "Palestinian People's Party"
* Abdel Karim Shubeir - "independent"

Three other candidates who registered by the end of the registration period subsequently withdrew: they were Marwan Barghouti, Hassan Khreisheh and Abd al-Sattar Qasim.

The election campaign

The election campaign faced problems due to the widespread blockade of the Palestinian territories by the Israel Defense Forces. Despite Israel's assurances that it would do what it could to ensure that the election took place, in many instances Israeli forces actively interfered in the campaign. Among reported incidents was the arrest of Mustafa Barghouti by Israeli forces and his subsequent expulsion from East Jerusalem when he was going to hold an election speech there. He was also prevented from entering Nablus and Gaza. Bassam al-Salhi, candidate for the socialist Palestinian People's Party, was also prevented from visiting East Jerusalem.

Many of Abbas' opponents claimed that they were unfairly treated as Israel denied them entry to areas Abbas was allowed to visit during the election campaign. Abbas was the only candidate allowed access to Gaza.

Conduct of the polling

The election was marked by difficulties in accessing polling stations. In Khan Younis Israeli soldiers opened fire against a school used as a polling station and by roadblocks prevented thousands of people from getting to the polling stations. [http://www.imemc.org/headlines/2005/Jan/week2/011105/solana.htm] There were also some technical problems including those due to the incomplete electoral register. Persons not listed on the electoral register were permitted to vote on presentation of a valid identity card. Voting was controversially extended for two hours beyond the appointed closing time, apparently at the request of Fatah; the head of the electoral commission subsequently resigned in protest.

The election was observed by number of international observers included former President Jimmy Carter and U.S. Senators Joe Biden and John E. Sununu.

The European Union's foreign policy chief Javier Solana criticized Israel for obstructing the Palestinian presidential election. He was quoted as saying that "We expected the Israelis to offer more facilities for the Palestinian election process but they did not live up to promises." [http://www.aljazeera.com/me.asp?service_ID=6594]

Results

Mahmoud Abbas won the election, with over 62% of the votes cast. 70% of those listed in the electoral register voted; however, it should be noted that over 30% of eligible citizens were not registered.

Full results released by the Central Elections Commission (CEC) on 12 January 2005 [http://www.elections.ps/template.aspx?id=55] :

election-table|Summary of the 9 January 2005 presidential election results!style="background-color:#E9E9E9" align=right|Votes!style="background-color:#E9E9E9" align=right|%
-
Mahmoud Abbas - Fatah
align="right" |501,448
align="right" |62.52
-
Mustafa Barghouti - "Independent"
align="right" |156,227
align="right" |19.48
-
Taysir Khald - Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine
align="right" |26,848
align="right" |3.35
-
Abdel Halim al-Ashqar - "Independent"
align="right" |22,171
align="right" |2.76
-
Bassam al-Salhi - Palestinian People's Party
align="right" |21,429
align="right" |2.67
-
Sayyid Barakah - "Independent"
align="right" |10,406
align="right" |1.30
-
Abdel Karim Shubeir - "Independent"
align="right" |5,717
align="right" |0.71
-
Invalid Ballots
align="right" |30,672
align="right" |3.82
-
Blank Ballots
align="right" |27,159
align="right" |3.39
-
style="background-color:#E9E9E9"|Total (turnout %)
width="75" align="right" style="background-color:#E9E9E9"|802,077
width="30" align="right" style="background-color:#E9E9E9"|100.0 :"Source: Central Elections Commission"

Turnout

A total of 775,146 ballots were cast in the January 9 poll according to an official statement from the CEC giving the vote totals for each candidate in the election. (CEC Statement on the 2005 Presidential Election," CEC, 10 January 2005)

At the end of polling, the Head of the CEC, Dr Hanna Nasir, told the media that "Approximately seventy per cent of registered voters voted today ... While approximately only ten per cent of unregistered voters turned out."

The CEC had made enormous efforts to register all eligible Palestinian voters in the run up to the election, but almost a third of eligible voters did not register or were unable to register. In an effort to boost low turnout, the CEC made a highly contested decision in the final hours of polling day to allow unregistered voters to cast ballots using only their identity cards, which raised fears of multiple voting. A Palestinian election official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Associated Press that the changes came after heavy pressure from Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah movement, which feared a low turnout could weaken Abbas. ("Abbas Wins Palestinian Vote in Landslide," Associated Press, 10 January 2005).

The day before the election the total number of registered voters was 1,092,407 according to a CEC press release. ("Central Elections Commission (CEC) Upcoming Presidential Elections: Facts and Statistics," CEC, 8 January 2005)

However, in a November 23 statement, the CEC explained: "The number of registrants on the voters’ list reached 1,111,868, or 67 percent of the estimated number of eligible voters, during the registration process conducted between September 4 and October 13, 2004. Of these names, 19,000 were removed from the voters’ list because the accompanying data was incomplete or the names were repeated on the list. With this adjustment, the number of registered voters decreased to 1,092,856." ("46% of Registered Voters are Youths, 46% are Women," CEC, 23 November 2004)

Exclusion of Diaspora Palestinians

In addition to the low turnout among Palestinians in the Occupied Territories, Palestinians living as refugees and exiles outside the territories were excluded from participating in the election. According to UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees there are 2.6 million Palestinians registered as refugees with the agency making them eligible to receive services who lived outside Palestine, in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. An unknown additional number sometimes estimated to be up to one million live in the diaspora in Europe, North and South America and in other Arab countries. In contrast to the elections held in Afghanistan and Iraq, no effort was made by the international community to allow these exile communities to participate in the election, and due to Israeli restrictions the vast majority of exiled Palestinians were unable to travel to the Occupied Territories to vote or stand as candidates.

International response

U.S. president George W. Bush said the election marked an essential step toward the goal of statehood and promised to help the new president in a renewed push for peace talks with Israel. Fact|date=February 2007 Abbas was also congratulated by Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon, who telephoned him after the results were announced. Sharon also reiterated his call for the new Palestinian leader to invest efforts to end attacks on Israelis. Fact|date=February 2007 The EU also praised the election, with European Commission president José Manuel Durão Barroso describing it as "a very important step towards the creation of a viable and democratic Palestinian state". [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/4160171.stm]

External links

* [http://www.elections.ps/english.aspx Central Elections Commission (CEC)]
* [http://www.imemc.org/archive/pa-elections.htm News reports] from IMEMC about the election
* [http://www.angus-reid.com/tracker/index.cfm?fuseaction=viewItem&itemID=5057 Angus Reid Consultants - Election Tracker]


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