Palestinian legislative election, 2006
On January 25, 2006, elections were held for the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), the legislature of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA). Notwithstanding the 2005 municipal elections and the January 9, 2005 presidential election, this was the first election to the PLC since 1996; subsequent elections had been repeatedly postponed due to the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Palestinian voters in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank including East Jerusalem were eligible to participate in the election.
Final results show that Hamas won the election, with 74 seats to the ruling-Fatah's 45, providing Hamas with the majority of the 132 available seats and the ability to form a majority government on their own.
The Prime Minister, Ahmed Qurei, resigned, but at the request of President Mahmoud Abbas, remained as interim Prime Minister until February 19, when Hamas leader Ismail Haniya formed the new government.
In response to Hamas' victory and the resulting armed civil conflict between Fatah and Hamas, the Quartet, a major financial backer of the PNA, cut funds to the Palestinian Authority following the elections. Additionally, Israel withheld tax revenue it collected on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, and the Palestinian economy subsequently plummeted.
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Politics and government of
the Palestinian territories
The previous elections chose 88 PLC members from several multimember constituencies via block voting[disambiguation needed]. In advance of the 2006 elections, Palestinian electoral law was changed to expand the PLC from 88 to 132 seats and create a degree of proportional representation via a parallel voting system.
Each voter receives two ballots. On the first, the voter chooses one of several nationwide party lists. 66 of the PLC seats are distributed proportionally (in accordance with the Sainte-Laguë method) to those lists that receive more than 2% of the total list votes; if a list receives six seats, then the six candidates at the top of the list are elected to the PLC. Each list must include at 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 second ballot is for the voter's local constituency. The voter can cast up to as many votes for individual candidates as there are seats in his or her constituency. Votes are unweighted, and top-vote getters are elected to the PLC. For example, a voter in the Nablus district could cast up to six votes; the six candidates with the highest vote totals are elected.
In some constituencies, one or two seats are set aside for the Christian candidates with the most votes. For instance, in Ramallah, a five-seat constituency, the Christian candidate with the most votes will be elected to the PLC, even if he or she is not among top five candidates overall. The six seats reserved for Christians are considered the minimum quota for their representation in the council. .
The number of seats each electoral district receives is determined by its population; the breakdown is as follows:
- Jerusalem: 6 seats (2 reserved for Christians)
- Tubas: 1 seat
- Tulkarm: 3 seats
- Qalqilya: 2 seats
- Salfit: 1 seat
- Nablus: 6 seats
- Jericho: 1 seat
- Ramallah: 5 seats (1 reserved for Christians)
- Jenin: 4 seats
- Bethlehem: 4 seats (2 reserved for Christians)
- Hebron: 9 seats
- North Gaza: 5 seats
- Gaza City: 8 seats (1 reserved for Christians)
- Deir al-Balah: 3 seats
- Khan Younis: 5 seats
- Rafah: 3 seats
- Total: 66 seats (6 reserved for Christians)
Before the 2006 election, the PLC was dominated by the Fatah movement, which held 68 of the 88 seats. However, Fatah had been beset by internal strife in advance of the elections, with younger and more popular figures like Mohammed Dahlan, who took part in the negotiations of the 1993 Oslo Accords, and Marwan Barghouti (the latter currently serving five life sentences in an Israeli jail on terrorism charges) levelling allegations of corruption against Fatah leadership. Fatah organised primary elections to determine its list members, but the results were disputed and central lists imposed in some areas. The younger faction submitted a list dubbed Al-Mustaqbal ("the Future"), headed by Barghouti. However, on December 28, 2005, the leadership of the two factions agreed to submit a single list to voters, headed by Barghouti, who began actively campaigning for Fatah from his jail cell. Despite this, the two groups were by no means fully reconciled.
List of Change and Reform
The main component of this list was the Islamist Hamas movement, Fatah's main rival on the Palestinian political scene. Hamas has refused to recognize the right of Israel to exist. Hamas refused to participate in the 1996 elections because it viewed the Palestinian Authority as illegitimate due to its negotiations with Israel; while it has not changed that stance, it fielded candidates in 2006. Going into the election it had considerable momentum due to unexpected electoral success in the municipal elections in 2005.
The prospect of a Palestinian Authority dominated by Hamas alarmed Western governments, which almost universally consider it to be a terrorist group, and which provide foreign aid that makes up almost half of the PNA's budget. It was fear of a Hamas victory that was largely credited with driving the reconciliation between the main Fatah list and the Al-Mustaqbal breakaway faction.
This list was headed by Mustafa Barghouti, a distant relative of Marwan Barghouti. Mustafa Barghouti came in second in the Palestinian presidential election, 2005. The main component of this list was the Palestinian National Initiative. The list promised to fight corruption and nepotism, to demand the dismantling of the Israeli West Bank barrier, which it terms the "apartheid wall", and to provide "a truly democratic and independent 'third way' for the large majority of silent and unrepresented Palestinian voters, who favour neither the autocracy and corruption of the governing Fatah party, nor the fundamentalism of Hamas."
Abu Ali Mustafa
This list was formed by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and is named after Abu Ali Mustafa, the General Secretary of the PFLP who was assassinated by Israeli forces in 2001. The PFLP is the second largest member of the umbrella Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), after Fatah.
This list was headed by Finance Minister Dr Salam Fayyad and former PA Minister of Higher Education and Research Hanan Ashrawi. Their platform focused on reform of the security forces, democratic improvements and socioeconomic progress.
In the run up to the election a Fatah leader in Nablus accused the Third Way of receiving funds from the CIA.
This list was a coalition of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Palestinian People's Party, the Palestine Democratic Union (Fida), and various independents. The list was headed by Qais Abd al-Karim (Abou Leila) from the DFLP. The PPP candidate received 2.67% in the Palestinian presidential election, 2005. In the list vote, its best vote was 6.6% in Bethlehem, followed by 4.5% in Ramallah and al-Bireh and 4.0% in Nablus.
Also known as the National Coalition for Justice and Democracy, this list was headed by Gazan doctor Eyad El-Sarraj, who was a consultant to the Palestinian delegation to the Camp David 2000 Summit and heads a group of Palestinian and Israeli academics working towards a peace agreement. The list's main platform is security reforms, establishing the rule of law and respect for human rights.
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Results and turnout
The Central Elections Commission released the final results on Sunday, January 29, 2006, and announced that Hamas had won 74 of the 132 seats, while Fatah trailed with 45.
According to the results, Hamas won the large majority of the constituency seats but was more narrowly ahead on the lists. Fatah did beat Hamas in the constituencies in Qalqilya, Rafah, and Jericho. Jenin was split evenly, and Fatah won the seats reserved for Christians in Bethlehem, Jerusalem, and Ramallah.
The Central Elections Commission said turnout was 74.6%–76.0% in the Gaza Strip and 73.1% in the West Bank.
|Alliances and parties||Votes (Proportional)||% (Proportional)||Seats (Proportional/District seats)|
|Change and Reform
|Fatah, harakat al-tahrīr al-filastīnī (Liberation Movement of Palestine)||410,554||41.43||45 (28/17)|
|Martyr Abu Ali Mustafa (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine) (al-jabhah al-sha`biyyah li-tahrīr filastīn)||42,101||4.25||3 (3/0)|
|The Alternative (al-Badeel)||28,973||2.92||2 (2/0)|
|Third Way||23,862||2.41||2 (2/0)|
|Freedom and Social Justice
|Freedom and Independence||4,398||0.44||0 (0/0)|
|Martyr Abu Abbas||3,011||0.30||0 (0/0)|
|National Coalition for Justice and Democracy (Wa'ad)||1,806||0.18||0 (0/0)|
|Palestinian Justice||1,723||0.17||0 (0/0)|
|Total (turnout: 74.6%)||990,873||100.0%||132 (66/66)|
|Source: Central Election Commission, Preliminary results,Final tally amendments, 2006-01-29, Final results|
Pre-election opinion polls
The Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research polled 1,316 adults in the West bank and Gaza strip in early December 2005 on their voting intentions for the legislative poll, which indicated the following support:
- Fatah: 50%
- Hamas: 32%
- Others: 9%
- Undecided: 9%
A second poll by PCPSR between 29 December - 31 December covered 4560 potential voters and gave the following results:
- Fatah: 43%
- Change and Reform (Hamas): 25%
- Independent Palestine: 5%
- Martyr Abu Ali Mustafa: 3%
- The Alternative: 2%
- The Third Way: 2%
- Undecided: 19%
No other lists were expected to exceed the 2% threshold.
A poll from Palestinian Public Opinion Polls, conducted 5 January and 6 January, covering 1360 persons, shows a further move away from Fatah:
- Fatah 39.3%
- Change and Reform (Hamas): 31.3%
- Independent Palestine: 10.4%
- Martyr Abu Ali Mustafa: 6.8%
- The Third Way: 5.5%
No other lists were expected to exceed the 2% threshold.
Voting in East Jerusalem
On December 21, 2005, Israeli officials stated their intention to prevent voting in East Jerusalem, which, unlike most of the Palestinian-inhabited areas that are planned to participate in the election, is under Israeli civil and military control. (Israel annexed East Jerusalem in the wake of the Six-Day War; this move has not been recognized by most other governments, or by the PNA, which claims Jerusalem as a Palestinian capital.) Israel's stated motivation was not the argument about sovereignty over the area (Palestinian voters in East Jerusalem had been allowed to vote in previous PNA elections despite the dispute) but concern over Hamas' participation in—and potential victory in—the election. Muhammad Abu Tir, Mustafa Barghouti, and Hanan Ashrawi were all briefly detained by Israeli police when they attempted to campaign in East Jerusalem. In response, PNA officials stated that the election would not be held if East Jerusalem voters could not participate —though this move was seen more as a pretext to postpone elections that Fatah might lose to Hamas than a debate over principle.
After privately agreeing to use the issue as a pretext for delaying the elections again so as to avoid Hamas electoral gains, Israeli and Palestinian officials raised the issue with the United States. But President George W. Bush made clear the elections should go forward as scheduled.
On January 10, 2006, Israeli officials announced that a limited number of Palestinians in East Jerusalem would be able to cast votes at post offices, as they did in 1996. Palestinian candidates will also be allowed to campaign in East Jerusalem as long as they register with Israeli police—and, a police spokesman noted, "Anyone who is a supporter of Hamas will not receive permission."  Israeli police closed at least three Hamas election offices in East Jerusalem during the campaign.
After polls closed, officials and observers called the vote "peaceful"; Edward McMillan-Scott, the British Conservative head of the European Parliament's monitoring team described the polls as "extremely professional, in line with international standards, free, transparent and without violence". His colleague, Italian Communist MEP Luisa Morgantini said there was "a very professional attitude, competence and respect for the rules."  All polling stations closed on time (7 p.m.) except for East Jerusalem, where voting was extended by the permitted two extra hours. Hamas protested this extension, claiming it only served Fatah; the Central Elections Committee stated that voting hours were "extended upon the approval of the Israeli authorities due to lengthy queues as a result of obstructions by post office workers." 
Exit polls indicated that Fatah emerged with more seats than Hamas, but not a majority of PLC seats. A poll conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research estimated that Fatah had won 42% of the national vote and Hamas 35%; the margin of error was 4%. Another exit poll, conducted by Birzeit University, largely viewed as the most authoritative estimation, had Fatah with 46.4% of the vote and Hamas with 39.5%; their tentative prediction of seat allocation had Fatah with 63 seats, four short of a majority; Hamas 58; the Martyr Abu Ali Mustafa list 3; The Third Way 2; Independent Palestine 2; The Alternative 2; and two independents.
Leaders from both Hamas and Fatah, however, announced on Thursday morning that Hamas was expected to win a majority. Ismail Haniya, who topped the Change and Reform list claimed "Hamas has won more than 70 seats in Gaza and the West Bank". Another Hamas leader, Musheer al-Masri claimed the party expected to win 77 seats. Aljazeera reported Fatah officials conceding defeat. Prime minister Ahmed Qurei resigned on Thursday morning, along with his cabinet, saying it now fell to Hamas to form a government. Hamas leader al-Masri called for a "political partnership" with Fatah, but prominent Fatah leader, Jibril Rajoub, rejected a coalition and called on Fatah to form a "responsible opposition".
The 2006–2007 economic sanctions against the Palestinian National Authority were imposed by Israel and the Quartet on the Middle East against the Palestinian National Authority and the Palestinian territories.
Israel and the Quartet have said that sanctions would be lifted only when the Palestinian government has met the following demands:
- Renunciation of violence,
- Recognition of Israel by the Hamas government (as had the PLO), and
- Acceptance of previous agreements between Israel and the Palestinian National Authority.
The international sanctions on PA were terminated in June 2007, following the Battle of Gaza, in which Hamas took over Gaza, ousting its rival Fatah. At the same time a new and more severe blockade of Hamas Governaned Gaza Strip was initiated.
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- Palestine's Central Elections Commission website
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- National Democratic Institute / The Carter Center - election observation report