Palestinian presidential election, 2005
|This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
the Palestinian territories
The 2005 Palestinian presidential election — the first to be held since 1996 — took place on 9 January 2005 in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Voters elected PLO chairman Mahmoud Abbas to a four-year term as the new President of the Palestinian Authority to replace Yasser Arafat, who died on 11 November 2004. No Palestinian presidential elections have taken place since 2005, and Abbas has continued in office since the expiration of the term.
Seven candidates contested the election. Abbas won over 62% of the votes cast, with independent Mustafa Barghouti coming second, on just under 20%, and the remaining candidates far behind.
Mahmoud Abbas versus Marwan Barghouti
Two weeks after the death of Arafat, Fatah nominated former PNA prime minister Mahmoud Abbas (also known as Abu Mazen) as its candidate, despite his relative lack of popular appeal. Palestinian Legislative Council member and Fatah leader in the West Bank Marwan Barghouti, who was in prison in Israel after being convicted for a number of intifada killings, suggested that he might run, inspiring considerable speculation about his prospects. He was seen as the only candidate who could hope to compete seriously against Abbas. However, his proposed candidacy met with resistance from Fatah activists.
After successive contradictory announcements, Marwan Barghouti declared his candidacy just before the registration deadline expired but then retired from the race on December 12 after discussions between his representatives and the Fatah leadership. With his withdrawal, Mahmoud Abbas was seen as the clear favourite, with Mustafa Barghouti in second place.
Opinion polls before Marwan Barghouti withdrew his candidacy suggested that the contest would largely be a two-horse race between him and Mahmoud Abbas. Details of some of these polls are as follows:
- Abbas 44% / Marwan Barghouti 46% (±3%) (Development Studies Program, Bir Zeit University)
- Abbas 40% / Marwan Barghouti 38% (±3%) (Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research)
- Abbas 40% / Marwan Barghouti 22% (±3%) (Palestinian Center for Public Opinion)
Final list of candidates
- Mahmoud Abbas - Palestine Liberation Organisation. Former Prime Minister and current chairman of the PLO, endorsed by the Fatah Revolutionary Council on November 25, 2004.
- Abdel Halim al-Ashqar - independent.
- Sayyid Barakah (politician) - independent.
- Mustafa Barghouti - independent. A democracy activist and head of the Palestinian National Initiative. His candidacy was supported by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Not to be confused with his cousin Marwan Barghouti.
- Taysir Khalid - Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine
- Bassam al-Salhi - Palestinian People's Party
- Abdel Karim Shubeir - independent
Conduct of the polling
There were some technical problems, including those due to the incomplete electoral register. Persons not listed on the electoral register were permitted to vote on presentation of a valid identity card. In view of the registration problems voting was controversially extended for two hours beyond the appointed closing time. The head of the electoral commission subsequently resigned in protest.
Obstruction by Israel
The election campaign faced problems due to the widespread blockade of the Palestinian territories by the Israel Defense Forces. Despite Israel's assurances that it would do what it could to ensure that the election took place, in many instances Israeli forces actively interfered in the campaign.
Among reported incidents was the arrest of Mustafa Barghouti by Israeli forces and his subsequent expulsion from East Jerusalem when he was going to hold an election speech there. He was also prevented from entering Nablus and Gaza. Bassam al-Salhi, candidate for the socialist Palestinian People's Party, was also prevented from visiting East Jerusalem. Many of Abbas' opponents claimed that they were unfairly treated as Israel denied them entry to areas Abbas was allowed to visit during the election campaign. Abbas was the only candidate allowed access to Gaza.
Voter registration was hampered by closure of registration centers due to curfews, roadblocks and road closures. Registration staff and supervisors were detained. Israeli troops, used gas grenades and noise in the vicinity. A number of centers was raided.
Particularly East Jerusalem was affected. Checking of the names of voters in the voters list was prevented. Also the polling was supervised by the Israeli postal authority. The votes were not counted at the polling centers themselves, but first transported to the Jerusalem electoral constituency office in Dahiyat al-Barid.  Voters were intimidated by recording the ID card numbers that were listed in the register and registration staff members were detained.
There were difficulties in accessing polling stations. In Khan Younis Israeli soldiers opened fire against a school used as a polling station and by roadblocks prevented thousands of people from getting to the polling stations.
The European Union's foreign policy chief Javier Solana criticized Israel for obstructing the Palestinian presidential election. He was quoted as saying that "We expected the Israelis to offer more facilities for the Palestinian election process but they did not live up to promises." 
Mahmoud Abbas won the election, with over 62% of the votes cast. 70% of those listed in the electoral register voted; however, over 30% of eligible citizens were not registered.
Full results released by the Central Elections Commission (CEC) on 12 January 2005:
|Summary of the 9 January 2005 presidential election results||Votes||%|
|Mahmoud Abbas - Fatah||501,448||62.52|
|Mustafa Barghouti - Independent||156,227||19.48|
|Taysir Khalid - Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine||26,848||3.35|
|Abdel Halim al-Ashqar - Independent||22,171||2.76|
|Bassam al-Salhi - Palestinian People's Party||21,429||2.67|
|Sayyid Barakah - Independent||10,406||1.30|
|Abdel Karim Shubeir - Independent||5,717||0.71|
|Total (turnout %)||802,077||100.0|
A total of 775,146 ballots were cast in the January 9 poll according to an official statement from the CEC giving the vote totals for each candidate in the election. (CEC Statement on the 2005 Presidential Election," CEC, 10 January 2005)
At the end of polling, the Head of the CEC, Dr Hanna Nasir, told the media that "Approximately seventy per cent of registered voters voted today ... While approximately only ten per cent of unregistered voters turned out."
The CEC had made enormous efforts to register all eligible Palestinian voters in the run up to the election, but almost a third of eligible voters did not register or were unable to register. Problems were due to a not up to date civil registry and the translation of Arabic names, which were in Hebrew on Israeli ID cards. In an effort to boost low turnout, the CEC made a highly contested decision in the final hours of polling day to allow unregistered voters to cast ballots using only their identity cards, which raised fears of multiple voting. A Palestinian election official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Associated Press that the changes came after heavy pressure from Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah movement, which feared a low turnout could weaken Abbas. ("Abbas Wins Palestinian Vote in Landslide," Associated Press, 10 January 2005).
The day before the election the total number of registered voters was 1,092,407 according to a CEC press release. ("Central Elections Commission (CEC) Upcoming Presidential Elections: Facts and Statistics," CEC, 8 January 2005)
However, in a November 23 statement, the CEC explained: "The number of registrants on the voters’ list reached 1,111,868, or 67 percent of the estimated number of eligible voters, during the registration process conducted between September 4 and October 13, 2004. Of these names, 19,000 were removed from the voters’ list because the accompanying data was incomplete or the names were repeated on the list. With this adjustment, the number of registered voters decreased to 1,092,856." ("46% of Registered Voters are Youths, 46% are Women," CEC, 23 November 2004)
Exclusion of Diaspora Palestinians
In addition to the low turnout among Palestinians in the Occupied Territories, Palestinians living as refugees and exiles outside the territories were excluded from participating in the election. According to UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees there are 2.6 million Palestinians registered as refugees with the agency making them eligible to receive services who lived outside Palestine, in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. An unknown additional number sometimes estimated to be up to one million live in the diaspora in Europe, North and South America and in other Arab countries. In contrast to the elections held in Afghanistan and Iraq, no effort was made by the international community to allow these exile communities to participate in the election, and due to Israeli restrictions the vast majority of exiled Palestinians were unable to travel to the Occupied Territories to vote or stand as candidates.
U.S. president George W. Bush said the election marked an essential step toward the goal of statehood and promised to help the new president in a renewed push for peace talks with Israel. Abbas was also congratulated by Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon, who telephoned him after the results were announced. Sharon also reiterated his call for the new Palestinian leader to invest efforts to end attacks on Israelis. The EU also praised the election, with European Commission president José Manuel Durão Barroso describing it as "a very important step towards the creation of a viable and democratic Palestinian state".
Importance of the elections
Elections in the OPT are held to exercise the Palestinian right to selfdetermination in connection with their right to establish their own state, but are held under the burden of military occupation. They are hold in the framework of the Oslo Accords, meaning that the power of the PNA was (and is) limited to matters like culture, education, ID-cards and the distribution of the land and water left by the Israelis. Such as far as the occupying power allows.
However, changes of the political reality, including elections and the formation of new political entities under occupation are, like the Oslo Accords themselves, contrary the Geneva Conventions and thus illegal. As long as the Palestinian Territories are occupied, the elections can have little more than symbolic importance.
Israel does not allow free exercise of political activities; checkpoints and separation walls are already fit to hinder all social activities. The parlement cannot function, merely because free travel is not possible, especially between Gaza and West Bank, apart from hostilities between Fatah and Hamas. Members of the Palestinian Legislative Council and other politicians are massively and lengthened detained by Israel or even killed, particularly those of Hamas.
Moreover, PNA and parlement do not represent the Palestinians in the diaspora (to which the PLO is entitled).
- Central Elections Commission (CEC)
- News reports from IMEMC about the election
- Angus Reid Consultants - Election Tracker
- Report on Second Presidential Elections January 9, 2005, p.33-36. Central Elections Commission (CEC); 30 March 2005
- Report on Second Presidential Elections January 9, 2005, p.68
- Central Elections Commission (CEC), Elections Arrangements in Jerusalem.
- Solana: Israel did not fulfill its commitment to facilitate Palestinian Elections, International Middle East Media Center. 11 January 2005
- Central Elections Commission (CEC); Report on Second Presidential Elections January 9, 2005. 30 March 2005 (totals on page 236)
- Report on Second Presidential Elections January 9, 2005, p.115-117
- Abbas achieves landslide poll win, BBC News, 10 January 2005
- UN General Assembly, Resolution 58/292. Status of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem. 17 mei 2004 (doc.nr. A/RES/58/292).
- International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Convention (IV) relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War. Geneva, 12 August 1949 – Commentary ARTICLE 47. 2005
- Addameer, Palestinian Legislative Council Members, juni 2012
- Middle East Monitor (MEMO), Palestinian elected representatives are still detained by Israel, 14 september 2011