Press release - 047(2006)

Elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council show the level of democratic development of Palestinian society

Strasbourg, 26.01.2006 – The elections to the Palestinian Legislative Council were conducted in a well-organised and democratic fashion, better than seen in some Council of Europe member states, according to a nine-member delegation from the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly which observed the elections.

In a statement, the delegation continued:

“These elections were a genuine demonstration of plurality. All but one of the Palestinian parties and factions, as well as many independent candidates, participated in these elections, reflecting the wide range of political views existing in Palestinian society.

In this respect, it is to be welcomed that a number of factions that boycotted previous elections this time decided to participate in the democratic process. The delegation hopes that this is a sign that these parties now agree that the democratic process is the only way forward in order to solve the problems facing Palestinian society, and agree to abide by the rules that a democratic process demands.

The delegation of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) wishes to compliment the Palestinian election administration for the competent and independent manner in which it conducted these elections. This was in spite of continued uncertainty, up to the last moment, regarding the date of these elections and the difficult political context in which they took place, including as a result of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank.

During the campaign and on Election Day all players generally showed restraint and mutual respect. The vote took place in a calm, well-organised and often festive manner with only minor shortcomings observed. The regulations prohibiting campaign activities on Election Day were clearly not adhered to, with campaigning taking place right in front of, and often on the doorsteps of, the polling centres, which could be intimidating for voters trying to cast their ballots.

In East Jerusalem, as a result of Israeli demands, no voters’ registers were used in the polling stations. Elsewhere in the Territories the accuracy of the voters’ lists showed a marked improvement over the lists used in the 2005 Presidential elections. The Palestinian authorities should be complimented for their efforts to improve these voters’ lists. The high number of domestic observers from parties and candidates as well as independent NGOs, and their congenial behaviour, is to be welcomed and clearly reflects the development and improvement of the political process in Palestinian society. The participation of women in the election process, as witnessed by their large number among the party observers and in election commissions, was equally welcomed by the delegation.

The delegation deeply regrets that, again, the Israeli authorities impeded adequate voting arrangements for the Palestinian population, as well as campaigning by political parties and candidates, in East Jerusalem. The vote count is taking place in a well-organised and calm manner, and – despite allegations that violence could erupt during the vote count – no such incidents were observed. This again shows the level of acceptance of democratic principles by the Palestinian people.

The outcome of these elections signals the end of the dominance of Fatah in the governing structures of the Palestinian National Authority and a move towards a multi- party parliamentary set-up. The results gained by Hamas cannot be seen but as a protest vote of the Palestinian population against the often non-transparent and ineffective manner in which the governing structures operated. Democratic reform and the fight against corruption should therefore be priorities for the newly-elected parliament and government. The high turnout clearly shows the high expectations Palestinian voters have of the newly-elected parliament as well as the democratic election process itself. All parties should honour the trust placed in them by Palestinian voters, abide by the democratic rules, foreswear violence to achieve their political goals, and work for the creation of a democratic Palestinian state alongside Israel.”

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe observed these elections with a nine-member delegation representing all political groups in the Assembly. The delegation was led by Lord Russell-Johnston (United Kingdom, ALDE). Other members of the delegation were Maria Rosario Fatima Aburto (Spain, SOC), Josette Durrieu (France, SOC), Ruth-Gaby Vermot-Mangold (Switzerland, SOC), Renzo Gubert (Italy, EPP/CD), Maximilian Reimann (Switzerland, ALDE), Mikhail Margelov (Russia, EDG), Toomas Alatalu (Estonia, EDG) and Tiny Kox (Netherlands, UEL).

Parliamentary Assembly Communication Unit
Tel: +33 3 88 41 31 93
Fax :+33 3 90 21 41 34
pace.com@coe.int
www.coe.int/press



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