Palestinian Authority Elections 2006

(January 25, 2006)

By David Krusch

A new Palestinian Legislative Council elections law was passed in 2005, which states that there will be a mixed electoral system for Palestinian elections. The new law creates a system in which there are two ways for Palestinians to elect candidates for seats in the Council: district voting or proportional representation. Of the 132 seats available in the PLC, 66 are decided by district voting, while the other 66 by proportional representation.

The West Bank and Gaza Strip are split up into various districts, and according to the relative size of its population, each district is allocated a certain number of seats. In district voting, candidates who receive the highest number of votes from a specific district win that district's seat. In addition, 6 out of the possible 66 seats available by district voting are reserved for Christians. The West Bank has 11 districts: Jerusalem, Tubas, Tulkarm, Kalkilya, Salfit, Nablus, Jericho, Ramallah and al-Bireh, Jenin, Bethlehem, and Hebron. The Gaza Strip has 5 districts: North Gaza, Gaza, Deir al-Balah, Khan Younis, and Rafah.

In the system of proportional representation, an electoral list that receives 2% or more is awarded a number of seats proportional to the votes it obtained. Each electoral list must include at least 7 candidates and no more than 66. The elections law also states that women must be represented in each list, with least one woman in the first three names, at least one woman in the next four names and at least one woman in the five names that follow.

The law also set a timetable for registering a party list and campaigning. After December 14, 2005, candidates and/or lists could no longer register to run for office. Electoral campaigning was scheduled to begin on January 3, 2006, and would last until January 23, two days before the election was set to occur. The day before elections, no public campaigning was allowed. On January 25, polls were open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and the Palestinian voted in democratic parliamentary elections for just the second time in their history.

In early January 2006, the Center for Opinion Polls and Survey Studies at An-Najah National University conducted a public opinion poll of Palestinians to find out what the most important issues were for residents living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. According to a report on the poll, the top issues were controlling internal security and fighting corruption within the current Palestinian government. The issue of improving health conditions and the educational system appeared as the least important issue in the poll.

Political Parties in the 2006 Election

1. The Alternative List (Al-Badil)

This list consists of three parties and several independent candidates. The parties include The Coalition of the Democratic Front, Palestinian People's Party (PPP), and Fida (Palestinian Democratic Union). The Coalition of the Democratic Front is the political representative of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) terrorist group, which desires to turn Israel into a single democratic Palestinian state, and continues to conduct terrorist attacks against Israelis. The first candidate on the ballot for this list is Qais Abdul Karim, the leader of the DFLP. The PPP is a Communist movement in Palestinian controlled areas, which accepts the Oslo accords and favors a renewed peace process with Israel. Fida is a small party that also favors renewed peace negotiations with Israel, as well as a democratic system of governance.

2. Independent Palestine (aka Palestinian National Initiative)

This movement, headed by Palestinian Authority presidential runner-up Mustafa Barghouthi, is the third most popular movement in the Palestinian territories behind Hamas and Fatah. The list has 41 candidates running on the ballot, including a number of candidates from the coalition with the Palestinian National Initiative (Al-Mubadara).

3. Martyr Abu Ali Mustafa

This party, with 50 candidates on the ballot, is the political representative for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a Syrian-backed group that was designated as terrorist organization by the United States in 1997. The first person on the party's ballot is Ahmad Sa'dat Yousif Abdel Rasoul, who was imprisoned by the Palestinian Authority in 2002 for the assassination of former Israeli Tourism Minister Rehavam Ze'evi one year earlier.

4. Martyr Abu al-Abbas

Named after Mohammed Zeidan (Abu Abbas), the mastermind behind the hijacking of the Achille Lauro cruise ship in 1985, this party is the representative of the Palestinian Liberation Front (PLF). This pro-Syrian party, with 11 candidates on the ballot, rejects the Oslo accords and peace negotiations with Israel.

5. Freedom and Social Justice

This offshoot of Fatah is the representative for the Palestinian Popular Struggle Front (PSF), a terrorist organization that has been inactive since 1989. The top person on this party's ballot is Ahmad Majdalany. The group's headquarters is located in southern Lebanon, and it allegedly receives financial support from Syria.

6. Change and Reform - HAMAS

The Islamic Resistance Movement, or Hamas, is designated as a terrorist entity by the United States, the European Union, and Australia. Hamas has 59 members on the ballot, with the top slot held by Ismael Hanieya, who claimed that Israel's disengagement from the Gaza Strip in 2005 was due to the firing of Kassam rockets into Israel by Hamas. The group is competing for a majority in the Palestinian parliament with the ruling movement Fatah.

7. The National Coalition for Justice and Democracy (Wa'ad)

Led by Eyad el-Sarraj, this party advocates human rights and enforcing the rule of law. This is a small party with 12 candidates running on the ballot.

8. The Third Way

The number 1 and 2 candidates on this party's list is former PA Finance Minister Salam Khaled Abdullah Fayyad and former parliamentarian Hanan Ashrawi. This party has 25 candidates running, many of whom were members of President Mahmoud Abbas' previous government.

9. Freedom and Independence

This party, led by Salim Al-Bredeny, is the representative of the Palestinian Arab Liberation Front (ALF). ALF, formed in 1969, is a terrorist organization that received financial support from Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq. The group advocates the destruction of Israel and its replacement with a secular Palestinian state.

10. Palestinian Justice

This party has not released much information about its platform. The top slot on the ballot is held by Samir Qadri, who runs under the party banner of "liberty, justice and peace."

11. The Palestinian National Liberation Movement - Fatah

Fatah, with 45 candidates on the electoral ballot, has been the ruling party in Palestinian politics for decades. There is a current split in Fatah between the so-called young guard, led by imprisoned terrorist Marwan Barghouthi, and the old guard headed by President Mahmoud Abbas. Several candidates running on the Fatah list are members of the Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigade and Tanzim, both designated terrorist organizations.

Sources: “How the election works,” The Jerusalem Post, (January 25, 2006); “A Guide to the 2006 Palestinian Authority Elections,” The Israel Project.