Palestinian Centre for Human Rights
Palestinian Elections 2005
On 14 November 2004, interim President of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) Rawhi Fattouh issued decree (No. 10) of 2004 specifying 9 January 2005 as the date for holding presidential elections in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including Jerusalem, in the context of efforts made to ensure a peaceful transition of authority following the sudden death of President Yasser Arafat on Thursday, 11 November 2004. According to Article 27 of the Basic Law, free and general elections must be held in a period that does not exceed 60 days, during which the Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) assumes the responsibilities of the post of the president.
Holding general elections, both presidential and parliamentary, has been demanded by PCHR and other Palestinian civil society organizations since May 1999, when the interim period, according to the Oslo Accords, ended together with the legal term of the presidency of the PNA and the PLC, elected during the general elections of January 1996. Efforts made to hold elections in the past years failed due to continuous Israeli assaults against Palestinian civilians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), on the one hand and the lack of will on the part of the PNA to hold such elections, on the other hand.
In 2004, efforts to hold general elections were renewed when the late Palestinian President Yasser Arafat issued decree (9) of 2004 on 21 June 2004 declaring that general elections would be held on an unspecified date. The decree specified Saturday, 4 September 2004, as a date for starting the registration of voters and the process of registration started on time. The process of registration was supposed to end on the 7 October 2004. However repeated offensives in the OPT by the Israeli military were paralleled with a low turnout of voters wishing to register, caused by the fact that large segments of the electorate believed that the PNA was not serious in its intentions to hold elections. Consequently, the period of registration was extended to 13 October 2004. The Palestinian Central Election Commission (CEC) took a series of measures that made registration continue in various electoral bureaus and at Rafah Terminal on the Egyptian border and al-Karama Terminal on the Jordanian border. The registration was also extended in the northern Gaza Strip to the 25th of October 2004 due to an Israeli military offensive on the area that ended on the 16th of October 2004.
When it became clear that Presidential elections would be a necessity, the registration process gained momentum and registration was reopened on the 24 November 2004. Registration was closed on Wednesday, 1 December 2004, and the percentage of registered voters increased to 72% of those who have the right to vote, an increase from 67% during the period of the 4 September to the 13 November 2004. The nominations period was set between Saturday, the 20th of November 2004, and Wednesday, the 1st of December 2004. Twelve citizens from the west Bank and the Gaza Strip declared their intention to run in the elections. The applications of two of the candidates were rejected because the two candidates did not meet the required legal standards. Thus, the final number of candidates is 10: 7 independent candidates and 3 candidates who represent parties. A presidential decree issued on Tuesday, the 7th of December 2004, stated that the election campaign will be held between Saturday morning, the 25th of December 2004, and Friday evening, the 7th of January 2005, amending article 4 of Presidential Decree 10 of 2004, which specified Monday, the 27th of December 2004, as a date for starting the election campaign and Saturday, the 8th of January 2004, as a date for its end.
Steps taken by the PNA have demonstrated an unprecedented seriousness in its intentions to hold elections. The success of elections depends on the success of international efforts to pressure Israeli to stop its assaults against Palestinian civilians and take effective measures to allow the Palestinians to exercise their right to hold elections. These measures should include, among other things, an end to all incursions into Palestinian towns, villages and refugee camps, extra-judicial executions and arrests, and allowing Palestinians living in occupied Jerusalem to participate in the election.