On Saturday morning, 21 January 2006, early voting of Palestinian security forces for the Palestinian Legislative Council commenced in accordance to amendments to article 73 of the Elections Law No. 9 of 2005, which allows security forces to vote on three days preceding the official date of election. These days were decided on as 21, 22 and 23 January 2006.
According to the Central Election Commission (CEC), the number of security personnel who have the right to vote in polling centers throughout the West Bank and the Gaza Strip is 58,705, including 36,091 in the Gaza Strip. Elections are held in polling centers specified and fully supervised by the CEC, representing a positive achievement for the CEC, which insisted on holding elections in civil sites specified by the CEC and did not succumb to pressures to allow security personnel to vote in their own security centers. Voters in the Gaza Strip were distributed to 6 polling centers, one for each governorate, excluding Gaza which has two polling centers.
International and local observers, including those from PCHR, are monitoring these elections. PCHR has recruited 70 observers, half of whom are female, to monitor voting of security personnel in the Gaza Strip during the three specified days. These observers have been distributed to all polling stations throughout the Gaza Strip.
According to preliminary reports sent in by PCHR observers, elections have been conducted in a quiet and impressive manner that has reflected a high degree of organization, despite a few violations of elections regulations by supporters of some candidates. These violations included continuous campaigning at the doors of polling centers.
Polling centers closed at 19:00 on the first day in accordance with the law. According to procedures designed by the CEC, ballot boxes were closed by special locks and the boxes were kept in a safe place guarded by the police and CEC officials. The CEC also designed a special protocol to be completed at the commencement and closure of polling on each day, as a substitute for the ordinary protocols of commencement and closure of polling. The counting of votes from security forces will commence at the same time as the counting of votes cast on the official day of elections, which is 25 January 2006.