The holding of elections was the idea of Shimon Peres, who hoped to establish moderate local leadership in the West Bank that would accept his idea of autonomy. The elections were held under an amended version of the 1955 Jordanian electoral law, which granted the right to vote to all Palestinians over the age of 21, the law having previously restricted the franchise to male property owners. The changes in the franchise were opposed by Jordan, citing the Fourth Geneva Convention, which stated that an occupying power should maintain the status quo in any occupied territories", although the PLO supported the reform.
The elections saw a change in demographic of the elected politicians; 67% were under 50 compared to 40% in the 1972 elections. The proportion of white-collar workers also increased from 20% to 40%. Fourteen of the 24 elected mayors were new to office.