International Commission of Jurists observes Palestinian Presidential elections

At the request of its West Bank affiliate Al Haq, the ICJ sent a delegation of international observers to the Presidential elections of the Palestinian Authority, which took place on 9 January 2005.

“The election of the President of the Palestinian Authority was conducted with integrity and efficiency,” said The Honourable John Dowd A.O. QC, leader of the ICJ observer team today. “It was particularly impressive given that it was conducted under conditions of military occupation.”

ICJ’s international observer team, working with Al-Haq, monitored polling throughout the region in Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Hebron, Nablus and Qalqiliya. ICJ also covered the Gaza Strip, working with its Gaza affiliate, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights.

“Clearly elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council should be conducted as soon as possible to complete the democratic process.” Mr Dowd said. “This poll has shown that the Palestinian electoral system is able to conduct elections effectively and transparently.”

“An exception to this was the voting system in East Jerusalem, where the process was seriously flawed. Under Israeli regulations, voting in East Jerusalem took place at Israeli government post offices. Voters, however, had no way of knowing which post office they were registered to vote in. They were turned away if they attended the wrong place, and were not informed by postal staff of the correct post office to go to. Further, voters in Jerusalem lacked privacy having to complete their ballot papers at the counter, alongside people accessing ordinary postal services.” stated Mr Dowd. “Israeli soldiers also restricted the freedom of movement of voters by turning back those who tried to leave East Jerusalem to vote at nearby polling centres in the West Bank.”

Mr Dowd also said, “Further complications arose from a decision by the Palestinian Central Elections Commission late on election day to change the procedures governing votes by unregistered voters. The change was problematic because it caused some confusion among voters. However given the circumstances, the lack of information available to voters, and the degree of obstruction experienced by voters trying to reach the centres they were allocated, in our view the decision taken was a reasonable one. Finally, there were variations in the quality and effectiveness of the ink marks on voters’ thumbs designed to demonstrate that they had already cast their ballot.”

“It is our view that these matters did not ultimately affect the validity of the process or the reliability of the outcome.” said Mr Dowd.

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