Palestinian election ends, exit polls give Abbas lead

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Sunday, January 9, 2005

Polls have closed in the occupied territories with many exit polls showing that of the seven candidates for Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas has a large lead. Voting ended at 1900 UTC, two hours later than planned due to earlier voting difficulties. While the large influx of late voting added to a heavy turnout means that official totals may be delayed until Monday, the primary results are anything but close.

The Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research's exit poll indicates that Abbas has won 66.3% of the vote, while the next closest candidate polled 19.7%. None of the other candidate gained more than 3.8% of the vote.

Abbas supporters have already begun celebrating, according to correspondents, waving flags and carrying posters of Abbas through the streets. They hope that by winning by a large mandate Abbas will have a strong platform to pursue his policies of negotiation with Israel.

The voting went peacefully for the most part, the most noticeable exception being problems with voter registration and the turning away of hundreds of voters from a large Israeli-run polling station in East Jerusalem.