STRASBOURG — “We have seen an impressive improvement in the organisation of the voting process during the fourth phase of local elections in the Palestinian Territories, compared to previous phases’, said Christopher Newbury, Head of the Council of Europe Congress Election Observation Mission, following the elections.
“We are pleased that the Palestinian authorities have acted upon our recommendations”, he said, pointing out that two voter lists - based on the voter registration list and on the civil register - were replaced by only one electoral list, and that the question of overcrowding of polling stations has been efficiently addressed by breaking up large polling centres into smaller units.
However, the delegation observed active campaigning on the election day near polling stations in almost all municipalities, disruptive in some cases, which constitutes a clear violation of the law. Another area of concern was the provision for voting by illiterate electors as there are different interpretations of the law concerning who can accompany such people, and the procedure for doing so needs clarification. Access for people with disabilities to polling stations also required improvement. In a minority of cases, further training for polling station staff was needed.
The delegation acknowledged the calm and orderly manner in which voting took place inside polling centres, and regretted that a number of these centres could not open on time for lack of voting materials, reportedly due to delays at Israeli checkpoints in some cases, or for other reasons.
“Inside the polling stations, the Congress observed a free and fair election. Outside them, further improvements remain to be made,” said Mr Newbury.
The delegation from the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe observed this fourth phase of local elections in the Palestinian Territories on 15 December 2005 at the invitation of the Palestinian National Authority. The observer teams visited 130 polling stations in Ramallah, Al-Bireh, Nablus, Jenin and Gaza. The delegation will present a detailed report early in 2006.
The delegation included: Christopher NEWBURY (United Kingdom, EPP/CD); Omür AYBAR (Turkey, EPP/CD); Joseph BORG (Malta, EPP/CD); Luca CIRIANI (Italy, ILDG); Brith FÄLDT (Sweden, SOC); Wim van GELDER (Netherlands, EPP/CD); Mehboob KHAN (United Kingdom, SOC); Günther KRUG (Germany, SOC); Britt-Mari LÖFGREN OLOVSSON (Sweden, ILDG); Sean O’BRIEN (Ireland, SOC); Lars O’MOLIN (Sweden, EPP/CD); Tineke STRIK (Netherlands, SOC). Secretariat: Dmitri MARCHENKOV; Oscar ALARCON; Christine EBEL.
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