The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights is deeply concerned over the future of the electoral process in light of threats of resignation by members of the Central Elections Committee (CEC) as a result of continuous interference in their work by the Cabinet and Ministry of Interior.
A number of CEC members asked President Mahmoud Abbas to relieve them of their duties. The move came in protest against the Palestinian Cabinet’s decision regarding voting procedures for members of Palestinian security forces. The request was made in a letter submitted to the President on the morning of Thursday, 5 January 2006.
On Wednesday, 4 January 2006, the Palestinian Cabinet issued a decision allowing members of the Palestinian security forces to vote inside security buildings and outposts in the three days prior to the scheduled election date, 25 January 2006. The CEC objected to the decision, and threatened to tender its resignation if it remains in effect.
It is noted that over the past several weeks, the CEC has been coming under increasing pressure, starting with a request by the Ministry of Interior to allow members of Palestinian security forces to cast their votes before the scheduled election date, in order to preserve public order. On 10 December 2005, the President signed an amendment to Article 73 of Law #9 for the year 2005 on elections. The amendment stated, “The Elections Committee is to design a mechanism to allow members of the police and other security forces to vote during the 48 hours immediately preceding the scheduled polling.”
The CEC presented the voting mechanism for members of the security forces the next day after the amendment. The mechanism set 23 January 2006 as the early voting day. However, the Cabinet and Ministry of Interior rejected the mechanism, citing the difficulty in allowing security forces’ members to vote together, which would leave the security branches without their personnel.
On 3 January 2006, the President issued another amendment to Article 73 of the elections law that allowed members of the security forces to vote throughout the 3 days prior to the elections. The amendment was issued prior to the approval of Palestinian Legislative Council. The CEC was flexible and accepted the amendment, but insisted on selecting the sites where security personnel would vote, as set in the mechanism of early voting for security personnel (submitted to the Cabinet on 10 December 2005).
PCHR strongly condemns the pressure placed on the CEC by the Palestinian Cabinet and Ministry of Interior. The Centre calls upon the Palestinian National Authority to preserve the professionalism, neutrality, and independence of the CEC, and to refrain from interfering in CEC affairs in order to allow the Committee to hold free and fair elections.