From the Open-Publishing Calendar
From the Open-Publishing Newswire
Indybay Feature
Related Categories: Palestine | International
Exit poll: Abbas headed for big victory
by AL Jazeera (repost)
Sunday Jan 9th, 2005 12:58 PM
Fatah candidate Mahmud Abbas is heading for a landslide victory in the Palestinian presidential election, according to an exit poll.
Thousands of Fatah supporters have been celebrating in anticipation of Abbas' victory in Sunday's vote.

The exit poll results released shortly after the official close of voting at 1900 GMT said that the PLO chairman had won the election with a resounding 46% lead over his nearest rival, independent candidate Mustafa Barghuthi.

Abbas, also known as Abu Mazin, garnered 70% of the votes cast while Barghuthi took 19.7%, according to the poll conducted by the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research.

Throughout the day, thousands of voting-age Palestinians, defying the grim reality of Israeli occupation, trekked to polling stations in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to cast their ballots.

The winner will succeed Yasir Arafat, the Palestinian Authority chairman who died of an unknown illness on 11 November last year at a French military hospital.

Turnout in election was remarkably high in the rural areas but relatively low in some towns, including Hebron in the southern West Bank.

Voters' expectations

In rural towns, such as Dura, and contiguous villages and hamlets, the turnout was significantly higher, reaching nearly 50% in some localities by 2pm.

Palestinian officials and pollsters said they expected a high turnout, possibly approaching 65%, which they believed would serve Fatah's candidate, Abbas.

On Sunday toured several polling stations in the southern West Bank, listening to voters' impressions and expectations.

Muhammad Sayid al-Suyuri, a 60-year-retiree who had worked in Saudi Arabia for over 20 years, said, "We hope that he [the next president] will be able to improve our economic conditions, maybe give us free electricity, free education and free water."

'Not by elections'

Others, such as Ahmad Darawish, a 73-year-old farmer from Dura, said the act of holding the election was good in itself. "A people who don't elect their leaders and rulers freely are slaves or even worse," he said.

"From now on, Arab peoples around us need not learn democracy from the west. They can learn it from us."

However, Darawish conceded that no matter how democratic the Palestinian political system, it wouldn't do much to liberate the people from Israeli occupation.

In some localities, such as Khursa, 46km south of Jerusalem, Fatah activists were spotted bringing elderly people to the local polling station and encouraging them to vote for the movement's candidate, Abu Mazin.

Case for boycott

Altercations between Fatah supporters and those backing independent candidate Mustafa Barghuthi reportedly broke out in some villages.

However, the shouting matches did not degenerate into violent clashes.

For all the enthusiasm and festive atmosphere, many eligible voters boycotted the election, either in deference to Hamas' call to that effect or because they didn't think that the election would palpably improve the overall political situation.

Among them was Ali Hijjah, a construction worker from Khursa.

In his view, neither Abbas nor any other candidate will be able extract "anything from the stingy Sharon".

"I am not against democracy," he said. "The Arab world needs democracy, but this election under the Israeli occupation is like placing the carriage before the horse."

Deceived again

Hijjah cited another reason for boycotting the vote.

"I am convinced that Abu Mazin will retain the same corrupt people who stole millions from the people, and in case he tried to remove them, let alone prosecute them for their crimes, they might very well kill him," he said.

Another Palestinian who didn't cast his ballot, Abd al-Karim Titi, of the Fawar refugee camp, south of Hebron, said Palestinians are being deceived once again.

"In 1995, every Palestinian thought he would obtain a brand new car and be able to build an elegant red-tiled villa. I am afraid we are about to suffer the same nightmare again, this time under Abu Mazin instead of Arafat," he said.

Western observers from North America and Europe apart, delegates from several Arab and Asian countries, notably Egypt and Jordan, were on hand in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to monitor the election and ensure its transparency.

No major problems

Shireen Abu Akla, Aljazeera's correspondent, quoted the Palestinian central electoral commission as saying that voting had gone off calmly and turnout was high in Tulkarim, the Jenin refugee camp and Nablus, all in the West Bank.

However, there were reports of problems, Shireen Abu Akla said, from Jenin, arising from the use of civil lists to verify the identity of some citizens who decided to cast their ballots at the last moment. Apparently, they could not find their names or locate the correct polling stations.

In another case, voters in Bita village contacted Aljazeera's correspondent to complain about the travel restrictions imposed by temporary roadblocks erected by Israeli forces.

In Tulkarim, such roadblocks were placed early in the morning but this did not appear to deter Palestinian voters.

Foreign observers told Shireen Abu Akla they had not received any reports of any major problems faced by voters.

Role model

Also on Sunday, a large Jordanian delegation, headed by former prime minister Abd al-Salam al-Majali, toured polling stations in the Hebron area.

A member of his group, Khaldun al-Nasir, head of the nationalist centre-right Al-Ahad Party, told that the Palestinian elections were very important for the consolidation of democracy throughout the Arab world.

"You people here are practising democracy under the most difficult conditions because of the repugnant Israeli occupation. This in itself should earn you the admiration and respect of the entire world," al-Nasir said.

"Nobody can belittle this election. In time all Arabs will learn from you and democracy will spread eventually, maybe slowly but definitely."
by more
Sunday Jan 9th, 2005 1:04 PM
RAMALLAH, WEST BANK - Mahmoud Abbas was headed for a landslide victory in a Palestinian presidential election on Sunday to succeed Yasser Arafat with 66 to 70 per cent of the vote, exit polls showed.

Balloting was extended by two hours, until 9pm (8am NZ time) because some voters were being held up by Israeli army checkpoints, election officials said.

Abbas has called for an end to armed struggle and wants to revive peace talks with Israel, helping encourage new hopes for peace in the Middle East after Arafat's death in November.

Victory for Abbas, the candidate of the dominant Fatah movement, had been widely anticipated and the early exit polls were in line with pre-election forecasts.

A poll by the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research in Ramallah gave Abbas 66.3 per cent to 19.7 per cent for pro-democracy activist Mustafa Barghouthi, with five fringe candidates sharing the rest of the vote.

An-Najah University in Nablus predicted Abbas would garner 70.5 per cent followed by Barghouthi at 24.5 per cent.

The other five other candidates ranged from a Marxist former guerrilla to an academic under US house arrest on suspicion of funnelling funds to Hamas militants.

"These are initial results but we expect Abu Mazen to win with over 70 per cent," said Abbas' campaign manager Mohammed Shtayeh, using the candidate's nickname.

"This is the choice of the people and this means that Abu Mazen has the mandate to implement his programme."While Palestinians cast their ballots, Hamas and other militant Islamic groups urged a boycott of the poll and Israel reasserted that progress towards peace depended on a halt to "terrorism and violence".

But while international monitors reported initial confusion at polling stations in Arab East Jerusalem over voter registration rolls, they said Israel had kept its promise to ease the passage of Palestinians through checkpoints.

"Anecdotal evidence coming in is that (Israeli) restrictions have been quite effectively lifted," said Les Campbell, a spokesman for foreign observers led by former US President Jimmy Carter.

The voting hours extension came after reports of low turnout in some cities.

Analysts said to build a popular mandate for peacemaking, Abbas needed at least 60 per cent of the vote and a large turnout among the 1.8 million eligible voters -- both uncertain because of the boycott by Islamic groups bent on destroying Israel.

As if to underscore the problems facing Abbas if he wins the presidency, Palestinian militants fired at least two rockets into Israel from the Gaza Strip.

There were no casualties but Abbas, 69, who took over as leader of the Palestine Liberation Organisation after Arafat died on Nov. 11, has demanded such strikes stop.

In a possible show of solidarity with Palestinian militants, the Lebanese Hizbollah group attacked an Israeli patrol in a disputed area of the Israel-Lebanon border, killing an Israeli officer.

Israel responded with an air strike against suspected Hizbollah positions and artillery fire. United Nations sources in Beirut said a French officer with an international truce monitoring force was killed but it was not immediately clear what killed him. Another officer was wounded.

"The elections are going very well and this proves that the Palestinian people are moving towards democracy. There are obstacles but the determination of the people is stronger," Abbas said after voting in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Abbas, an architect of interim peace deals with Israel in the early 1990s, was forecast to take 52 to 65 per cent of the vote, more than twice the support commanded by his closest challenger, human rights activist Mustafa Barghouthi.

Clad in a business suit -- Arafat always wore a military uniform -- Abbas waged a crowd-pleasing campaign, pledging to uphold a struggle for statehood in Israeli-occupied territories while calling for an end to violence in a 4-year-old uprising.

"We want to see what is really required, a strategic decision to fight terrorism and violence. Elections are just a first step in the required direction," Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom told Israel Radio.

Abbas has raised eyebrows in Israel with campaign vows to insist on Palestinian statehood in all of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, as well as a "right of return" for millions of Palestinian refugees to lands now inside the Jewish state.

Other candidates, ranging from a Marxist PLO official to a professor under house arrest in the United States on suspicion of funnelling money to Hamas militants, were forecast to garner only a few percentage points between them.

On the Israeli political front, a new government was to be sworn in on Monday after Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's coalition pacts with veteran peacemaker Shimon Peres' Labour Party and a religious faction were formally handed to parliament on Sunday.

With new partners, Sharon will have a parliamentary majority for the first time in six months to press ahead with the planned removal this year of all 21 Gaza settlements and four of 120 in the West Bank.

by bbc
Sunday Jan 9th, 2005 5:11 PM
People have been lining up at polling stations throughout the West Bank and Gaza to vote for a successor to Yasser Arafat as president of the Palestinian Authority.

For Ramallah, high up in the hills around Jerusalem, it was a cold, crisp start to the day, perhaps putting some voters off until there was a bit of warmth in the winter sunshine.

Nevertheless, at the Friends Boys School voting centre they had already had 10% of their 2,000 registered voters through the doors by about 0900, two hours after polls opened.

But mostly there were many more international observers and, in particular, journalists at the station than voters.

This was because this is where Mustafa Barghouti, the main challenger to frontrunner Mahmoud Abbas according to the polls, was set to vote.


A huge media scrum engulfed the candidate when he arrived, brandishing a copy of al-Quds newspaper that - much to his chagrin - was carrying a full-page advert in support of Mr Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen.

The advert appeared to directly contravene the election law that said campaigning activity must end at midnight on the Friday before polling.

by Al Bawaba
Sunday Jan 9th, 2005 5:14 PM
Mahmoud Abbas won 66 percent of the vote in the Palestinian presidential election Sunday, according to an exit poll. Abbas' main challenger, Mustafa Barghouti, won19 . 7percent of the vote, according to the poll conducted by the independent Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research.

Polling stations opened at 7 A.M. Sunday in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, as Palestinians started to cast their votes in the presidential election that is expected to see PLO leader Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) as the new leader of the Palestinian Authority, replacing the late Yasser Arafat.

Dr. Rami Al-Hamdallah, secretary general of the Palestinian central elections committee, has said that the final results would be announced on Monday morning. He told a press conference in Ramallah that the seven candidates’ election campaigns, which continued for two weeks, were officially rounded up Saturday.

Rami said that the campaign progressed satisfactorily although the committee had received a number of complaints that were adequately dealt with. He said that the committee did not count much on the Israeli declaration that it would ease military measures in the vicinity of Palestinian cities.

“We have not seen anything taking place on the ground,” the committee chairman said, adding that all preparations for the elections day were complete.

Rami said that16 , 300employees were trained on election process to receive around1 . 7million eligible voters. He affirmed that the committee had prepared for the elections in a record period of 60 days and that1 , 777balloting boxes were distributed on polling centers in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and occupied Jerusalem.

Centarl Election Commission (CEC) said Sunday afternoon that the voting proccess has been extended to 9 p.m (Palestine Local Time), as hundreds of Palestinian voters could not reach polling stations because of Israeli miltary measures.

In an urgent press conference in Ramallah, Baha' al-Bakri, CEC public realations director said the decision has been taken in an attempt to overcome the Israeli restrictions, mainly in Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip city of Khanyounis.

He added that none of Israel's promises of easing movement of voters at checkpoints was kept, affirming that Israeli soldiers hindered many voters at Dahiat al-Bareed polling station in East Jerusalem, and none of Israeli checkpoints has not been removed.
by Daily Star, Lebanon
Sunday Jan 9th, 2005 5:15 PM
Early results showed the moderate candidate Mahmoud Abbas overwhelmingly winning the Palestinian presidential election Sunday with 66 percent of the vote, an exit poll said.

Such a margin of victory would give the Abbas, 69, and popularly known as Abu Mazen, a clear mandate to renew peace talks with Israel, rein in militants and reform the corruption-riddled Palestinian Authority. Abbas' main challenger, Mustafa Barghouti, won 19.7 percent of the vote, according to the exit poll conducted by the independent Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research. The poll was based on responses from about 10,000 voters, with an error margin of 3 percentage points. The turnout of voters was about 65 percent, a leading pollster estimated. Palestinians hoped Sunday's presidential election, their first in nine years, would revitalize the Middle East peace process in the wake of longtime President Yasser Arafat's death on Nov. 11.

"This percentage means that Abu Mazen will have the legitimacy to negotiate with the Israelis, and the Palestinian people will accept what Abu Mazen will agree on. He has a mandate from the voters," said the Palestinian policy center's director, Khalil Shekaki.

The initial results came after the Central Election Commission decided to keep polls open for another two hours, until 9 p.m., citing logistical problems. Voting went relatively smoothly for the estimated 1.8 million Palestinians eligible to cast ballots.

However, in the West Bank, five gunmen burst into an election office, firing into the air and complaining that the names of their relatives had been left off registration lists. In Jerusalem, there was some confusion over voter lists that was eventually resolved, with the help of international observers. Cabinet Minister Saeb Erekat said the Palestinian elections can be a model for the Arab world, noting that seven candidates competed. "This is a message to [U.S. President George W.] Bush, to the rest of the world, that the problem we have here is not the kind of system we have, it's not reform, it's the Israeli occupation," Erekat said. Bush has said a resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks must be accompanied by sweeping Palestinian government reform. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, speaking on CNN, praised the vote as a "moment of opportunity for both sides." Visiting U.S. Senator John Kerry, who challenged Bush in the 2004 U.S. election, met with candidates in the West Bank. "We're here because we have very, very high hopes for an election that can help move the peace process forward," he said.

Polls opened at 7 a.m. across the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. Voters were slow to arrive, and by noon only about 30 percent had cast ballots. Later in the day, election officials simplified procedures, allowing voters to cast ballots in any of more than 1,000 locations, rather than where they registered. This enabled thousands of members of the Palestinian security services - likely Abbas supporters - to cast ballots where they serve, rather than having to travel to their home towns.

Police officer Mohammed Juma was one of the first voters at the Jalil school in Gaza City. "I believe he is the only one capable of taking us to the safe side of this ocean of conflict," he said. Abbas, accompanied by his family, voted at Arafat's former headquarters in Ramallah. "The election is going well and that indicates that the Palestinian people are heading toward democracy," he said. Abbas has said his main goal is the same as Arafat's: an end to Israeli occupation and a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital. Abbas faces a difficult balancing act. He is likely to encounter resistance from militants intent on continuing attacks on Israel. On the other hand, he is under heavy pressure from Israel to crack down on the militants. "After the elections, we want to see ... a strategic decision to fight the terror and incitement," Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom told Israel Radio.

Abbas has so far resisted calls for a crackdown. Instead, he hopes to persuade militants to halt their attacks on Israel. The Israeli Army eased travel restrictions and took other measures in Palestinian areas to facilitate Sunday's election. Hundreds of international observers from Europe, Japan and the U.S. were also on hand, including former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and former French Premier Michel Rocard. In Jerusalem, Palestinians and international observers complained of confusion over registration lists, and Palestinians accused Israel of trying to intimidate them. By prior agreement with Israel, only about 5,000 of 120,000 eligible voters in Jerusalem were permitted to vote in post offices in the city. The others had to go to city suburbs to cast ballots.

Jerusalem is at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and both peoples claim it as their capital. Many Palestinians in the holy city said they would refrain from voting out of fear of jeopardizing their fragile status under Israeli rule. - AP, Reuters
by Haaretz
Sunday Jan 9th, 2005 5:18 PM
Palestine Liberation Organization chief Mahmoud Abbas declared victory Sunday in the election for Palestinian Authority chairman and dedicated his victory to Yasser Arafat.

"We offer this victory to the soul of the brother, martyr Yasser Arafat and to all Palestinians," Abbas told a jubilant rally of his Fatah party in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

"There is a difficult mission ahead to build our state, to achieve security for our people ... to give our prisoners freedom, our fugitives a life in dignity, to reach our goal of an independent state," he said in to hundreds of cheering supporters.

Exit polls released shortly after voting centers closed Sunday evening gave Abbas between 66-70 percent of the vote.

Such a margin of victory would give Abbas a clear mandate to renew peace talks with Israel, rein in militants and reform the corruption-riddled Palestinian Authority.

Five other chairmanship candidates, ranging from a Marxist ex-guerrilla to an academic under U.S. house arrest on suspicion of funneling funds to Hamas militants, trailed far behind.

An-Najah University in Nablus predicted Abbas, 69, would garner 70.5 percent of the vote, while Mustafa Barghouti, the next main challenger, will get 24.5 percent of the vote. The poll was based on responses of more than 5,000 voters, and has a margin of error of 5 percentage points.

A poll conducted by the independent Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research gave Abbas 66.3 percent of vote, with Barghouti winning 19.7 percent of the vote. The poll was based on responses from about 10,000 voters, with a margin of error of 3 percentage points.

A third poll, done by Bir Zeit University in the West Bank city of Ramallah, found that Abbas had won 70 percent of the vote. The same poll gave Barghouti 20 percent of the vote. It was based on interviews with 7,000 eligible voters. The poll had an error margin of 3 percentage points.

An independent estimate put the election turnout at around 65 percent.

"These are initial results but we expect Abu Mazen to win with over 70 percent," said Abbas's campaign manager Mohammed Shtayeh in response to the exit polls. "This is the choice of the people and this means that Abu Mazen has the mandate to implement his program."

Final results are expected on Monday morning.

Abbas supporters celebrated in the streets of Ramallah, honking car horns, waving flags and holding his portrait aloft.

U.S. President George W. Bush said said in response that the Palestinian election marked an essential step toward the goal of statehood and promised to help the new president in a renewed push for peace talks with Israel.

"I think this vote shows a change in the Palestinian street" moving away from support of violence, said Sharon aide Raanan Gissin. "We certainly welcome this and hope that from this mandate Abu Mazen will lead
the Palestinian people on the path of reconciliation," he added.

Increasing concerns of voting fraud
As the exit polls came through, however, there were increasing concerns of voting fraud during the election.

Due to a low voter turn out, the PA relaxed voting regulations, prompting the Palestinian Center for Human Rights and the camp of Abbas' leading opponent, human rights activist Mustafa Barghouti, to claim that they may have been widespread voter fraud.

Around 5 P.M. Sunday, the Palestinian Central Election Committee extended the voting to 9 P.M. and also allowed Palestinians to vote solely based on their identity cards, without any need to check them against the voter roll or population registry.

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights decided to petition the Palestinian High Court against the decision.

Haaretz has learned that some voters cast their ballots in areas where they do live. Voters were marked with a special ink - but one international observer said that the ink was found to be highly problematic in recent elections in Africa and Afghanistan as it wipes off after an hour or two.

The voting went relatively smoothly, though in East Jerusalem there was some initial confusion at the Israeli post offices where East Jerusalem residents were allowed to vote.

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, one of 800 international monitors of the first Palestinian chairmanship election since 1996, said it appeared Israel was keeping to its promise to ease the passage of Palestinians at military checkpoints.

"There is no [Israeli] intimidation I have seen," Carter told reporters after visiting checkpoints near Jerusalem.

One of the leaders of the official U.S. observer team, Sen. Joseph R. Biden (D-Delaware), said Sunday morning that the elections appeared "well-organized."

"This could be an election back in the States so far," he said.

Abbas said Sunday morning that the elections were going smoothly, showing that the Palestinians are moving toward democracy.

"The elections are going very well and this proves that the Palestinian people are moving towards democracy," Abbas said after casting his ballot in the Muqata headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah, under a portrait of Arafat. "There are obstacles, but the determination of the people is stronger."

"We heard that there is a high turnout, especially by women, and this is a very good thing," Abbas said.

Shalom: War on terror should begin day after election
Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said Sunday it was in Israel's interest for the elections to go smoothly, saying this would enable the newly elected Palestinian leader to fight terrorism immediately.

Israel hopes the elections do not hit any snags, "so that starting from tomorrow, the new Palestinian leadership will be able to do what it is required to do," Shalom told reporters in remarks broadcast on Israel Radio. "I think that the leader who is elected will have to wage a genuine struggle against terror immediately and carry out reforms [in the PA]."

"Of course, we expect a new, different Palestinian leadership that will be prepared to move in the direction of peace," Shalom said.

According to sources in the Prime Minister's Office, only once Abbas shows his seriousness in fighting terrorism will it be possible to know the degree of the coordination with the Palestinian Authority that Israel will be willing to assume during the implementation of the disengagement plan.

Meanwhile, Palestinian officials announced Saturday that a parliamentary election would be held on July 17.

by gehrig
Sunday Jan 9th, 2005 6:48 PM
"One of the leaders of the official U.S. observer team, Sen. Joseph R. Biden (D-Delaware), said Sunday morning that the elections appeared "well-organized." "This could be an election back in the States so far," he said. "

Now, _there's_ faint praise.

by democracy
Sunday Jan 9th, 2005 7:32 PM
So far it appears to just be a random series of elections that have been unfair and not something larger, but when you look deepers its much more troubling.

The Bush election in 2000, the overthrow of Aristide, the referndum on Chavez, the Bush election in 2004, the Russian election of Putin in 2004, the election in Afghanistan in 2004, the Ukrainian elections the Palestinian election today and the Iraq election in a few weeks all send a message to the world that may not only not be forgotten but may grow in a rather dangerous way.

The idea behind democracy is rule by "the people" but the past elections (and the future election in Iraq) brings up fundamental problems. If the people are not given a real choice (like Russia, Afghanistan, Iraq or Palestine) or the election is run by a previous regime (like the US, Russia and the Ukraine) who is to say the outcome represents anything at all. In Iraq people will go into polling places and place votes for candidates whose names they do not even know (only numbers will appear on the ballots and parties will reveal which numbers they want peopel to vote for but most people voting will never know the name of the person they are voting for). If the outcome is to the US liking we will hear speechs about the triumph of democracy and the if the outcome is not, we will hear calls for changing the outcome to represent more minority groups. In either case the only "acceptable" outcome is what the US wants and not what the people of Iraq want (as was true in Haiti and perhaps in the Ukraine). As with Venezuela and Haiti an outcome (even if agreed fair by the "international community") not to the US liking will declared antiDemocratic. This is and will be how the word Democracy is seen in the future. Democracy will soon be seen in a similar fashion to the tribune of of the plebs titles the emporers of Rome used after destroying the Republic. The mysticism of democracy where it empowers leaders with trust vanished years ago; Iraq will be the nail in the coffin of the idea of Democracy in much of the world as the word is dragged though the mud to give royal authority to the puppet of choosing of the Bush administration. As Fox News spews half-truths to the US public, some in the US will remain believers in the mystical powers and justcie of elected governments but with every election desputed and every attempt by leaders to act dismissively of the will of the majority after manipulating a victory even in the US the myth will dwindle and the history of past empires that elected themselves out of popular control will inevitably repeat.

Marx popularized an idea of historical progress with respect to societal structure but this could have just been an anomoly. Previous historians and philosophers saw the world as a cycle from popular rule to oligarchy to monarchy to tyrany and back to popular rule. The Capitalism of the 20th century was in many ways a global oligarchy; as the myth of Democracy withers away the direction we appear to be heading is not one any of us would hope for.