$ 35.00 donated in past month
From the Open-Publishing Calendar
From the Open-Publishing Newswire
Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: Palestine | International
Palestinians extend voting hours
The Palestinian election to choose a successor to the late leader Yasser Arafat has been extended by two hours.
Palestinian election officials said polling would now close at 1900 GMT.
They said there were problems with heavy turnout, registration lists and the turning away of hundreds of voters from a polling station in Jerusalem.
The favourite to win is ex-Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, who is calling for peace talks and an end to the armed Palestinian uprising.
Voting was said to be brisk in Gaza and the West Bank, but there were problems at a big Israeli-run polling station in East Jerusalem.
The BBC's Paul Wood reported chaotic scenes there.
Voters complained that Israeli officials were not allowing them to vote even though the Palestinian central election commission had properly registered them.
One election monitor said he thought up to 500 voters had been turned away.
Under special voting arrangements for East Jerusalem - which Israel has annexed and sees as its exclusive domain, while international law decrees it to be occupied territory - Palestinians are allowed to vote in Israeli post offices.
Only minor problems were reported elsewhere, although in a polling station in Ramallah in the West Bank, five Palestinian gunmen fired into the air in frustration that some names had been left off lists.
They were persuaded to leave the station.
The BBC News website's Martin Asser says the extension will put pressure on polling station staff, who were already complaining of fatigue after working non-stop for 12 hours.
Earlier, casting his vote at the Ramallah compound where Arafat is buried, Mr Abbas - also known as Abu Mazen - said the vote was taking place in a "marvellous" fashion.
"It is an illustration of how the Palestinian people aspire to democracy," he said.
Opinions polls have given Mr Abbas, leader of the main Fatah party, a clear lead over the pro-democracy activist Mustafa Barghouti, who is standing as an independent, and five other candidates.
But analysts say Mr Abbas would need a strong win - perhaps up to two-thirds of the vote - to go forward with his agenda.
Palestinian militant group Hamas has called for a boycott of the vote.
However, on Sunday a Hamas spokesman, Sami Abu Zuhri, said: "We will deal with the elected president despite our boycott."
The final result is expected on Monday. About 1.1 million Palestinians have registered to vote in their first presidential election since 1996.
Israel says it has done what it can to ease travel restrictions for the vote, including removing a number of temporary roadblocks. But some Palestinians say they have not gone far enough.
An Israeli military source said: "If there were any delays they were because of intelligence alerts. We told the Palestinians we reserved the right to act on alerts."
The former French Prime Minister Michel Rocard, the head of the European Union's monitoring mission, said he had seen no serious problems at checkpoints.
The death of Arafat in a Paris hospital in November has raised hopes for new peace talks between the Palestinians and Israelis.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had refused to do business with Arafat.
As Palestinians went to the polls, Israel's Labour Party leader Shimon Peres, who is entering a new coalition government with Mr Sharon, told the BBC he thought "very highly" of Mr Abbas.
Speaking on the BBC's Breakfast with Frost programme, he described Mr Abbas as a "serious man" and a "tough negotiator".
Mr Abbas has said he will ask current Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei to form a new government if he wins the election.