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)
Consultative Status with the ECOSOC of the United Nations
The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network
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.
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.
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.
 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.
 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.